Friday, 14 September 2012

How Does It Feel To Not Be On Top Of The World?

To panic, or not to panic? That is indeed the question.

Our Capital One Cup win over Gillingham was not as comfortable as the scoreline suggests - well, in truth, none of our victories this season have been what you'd call comfortable - but after looking at the score and scorers, we could still congratulate the team on a job well done, and feel proud of Carayol and Park's first Boro goals, in addition to a man-of-the-match display from Carayol.

And then we looked closer.

Just as Carayol was (again) showing signs of becoming the creative force we hoped he would be, he limped off injured (again). Scott McDonald, despite being more than capable of doing a job for the team (not only did he have a good pre-season, but his strike rate - 27 goals in 82 starts (thank you for the stat, Anthony Vickers) - is better than that of any other striker at the club), remains in internal exile. But worst of all...

It was bad enough to lose one inspirational captain to a long-term injury, but now we've gone and lost another. With Rhys Williams at the peak of his confidence and power, he damaged ankle ligaments at Gillingham - a match he was very nearly rested for! - and is now facing months on the sidelines. To compound matters, Mogga reshuffled the pack for the Millwall match (No Reach? No holding midfielder until it was too late? Park and Main not even on the bench?), and, as is becoming the norm this season, lots of pretty passing amounted to nothing as clinical finishing saw the Lions triumph, in the end, without really breaking a sweat.

So far, the season's very much like the start of 2007/08, when a superb home display against Birmingham in early September lifted everyone's confidence. By the end of the month, three strikers and an inspirational midfielder (for Rolls Rhys today, read Arca back then) had hit the treatment table and we'd conceded a sickening late equaliser in a match we'd bossed from beginning to end.

It's tempting to quote Albert King here and moan that if it wasn't for bad luck, we'd have no luck at all. But the best-organised sides make their own, and one has to admit that for all Mogga's positive talk, the season has been as stop start as our league results indicate.

What to do? I think that if a fan was in Mogga's shoes, he or she would be tempted to give the "kids" more time in the side. We've all seen what Main, Luke Williams, Reach and Park can do, and they are no doubt keen to show that they are ready for a regular run in the first team. But if one thinks with more head than heart, he or she should realise that Mogga is probably wary of rushing things with the younger lads. That it is far better to start with players who are more established at this level and slowly integrate the youngsters into the side.

So be it, then. But then there remains the problem of how to truly get the best out of Haroun, Zemmama, Ledesma and Miller, who've all shown that they *can* do it. But *will* they do it? How soon? And how often?

And, as Anthony Vickers so eloquently put it, the Scott McDonald conundrum must be resolved.

There will be a time when one will have to stop saying that Boro are "about" to come good.

* * * * *

As an aside: The decline and sale of Joe Bennett was unpredictable, even a little sad, but he was a defensive liability. And with the amount of left sided players we have at the club, it's undeniably good business. Did he miss Andy Taylor? Did he catch second season syndrome? Who knows? Either way, good luck to the lad.

Another aside: This article on Mogga by Martin Hardy of the Independent is well worth a read.

And as a final aside: Let's give a big Boro welcome to Andre Bikey!

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