Sunday, 30 December 2012

We Always Need To See Both Sides Of The Story

Though we might hate (or like, depending on your point of view) to admit it, there are always two sides to every story...

Boro finished the year as they started it, by taking on Blackpool. But this time the story was very different. No Ian Holloway, hence less fluidity from the opposition. A stronger, even fitter, if still not quite as fit as we'd like, squad. A greater chance of winning.

And win we did. But Boro being Boro, it didn't come easy. At all.

Still, we dared to dream of a whopping win at half-time. And why not? Despite the loss of yet another defender to injury (Justin Hoyte now joins Seb Hines, Andre Bikey and George Friend on the treatment table), virtually everything that could go right for Boro in the first half did. Two well-taken goals, numerous corners, Boro's best football of the season and Blackpool barely getting a kick all amounted to something that seemed just a little too good to be true.

And it was. The curse of Typical Boro reared its ugly head again when Wes Thomas fired home in a crowded box, but all that was deemed to be an aberration when Scott McDonald took his overall tally into double figures with a twenty-yarder. If only. Steele failed to hold on to a corner, Chris Basham capitalised, and within minutes Blackpool were awarded a highly dubious penalty. Luckily Steele atoned for his earlier flap with an excellent full length save, and it was left for a certain left-sided youngster to put the game out of Reach (groan!) in style.

Anyway. Reasons to be cheerful... and fearful...

1. Grant Leadbitter. One of four worthy captains of the team, along with Rolls Rhys, Woody and the astonishingly out-of-favour Bailey, he wins praise not just for his corners, but also for running back seventy yards to win a ball after narrowingly failing to cut it out.

2. A spectacular goal for Richie Smallwood - his first at the Riverside - on his 22nd birthday!

3. Scott McDonald and Jason Steele have enhanced their value to the team; and their value in the transfer window. I've been told we don't have to sell anyone, but if the right offer came in, I would hate to accept it at the expense of losing such crucial cogs in the Boro Machine.

4. With half our defence injured, Nicky Bailey may become more vital than ever; he excelled both on the pitch and off it. Why does Mogga persist on leaving him out of the starting line-up?

5. Ishmael Miller and Adam Reach. Hardly dependable "goal getters"; one's more famous for his physical presence, the other for his lack of it, and yet they have a funny habit of scoring the right goals at the right time. Think of Big Ish's home openers against Hull and Blackpool, which set us on the way to important victories, and his crucial goals against Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough, which put us back in control of games we seemed in danger of throwing away. And what of Reach's inspirational late goals? He's scored an exciting goal on his debut, an even more exciting and vital goal on his full debut, and another vital goal at the end of the year. Who needs Stewart Downing?

6. Marvin Emnes had one of his "on" days. Unfortunately, even at his best he reminds me of the archetypal Typical Boro player - lots of flicks and tricks but little or no end product.

7. We have made great use of the squad system so far this season, using 29 players in total.

8. Yesterday's triumph was our first home win over Blackpool in nearly four decades.

9. We scored four goals at the Riverside for the first time since the 8-1 trouncing of the current Premier League Champions in May 2008.

10. Boro have never failed to score at the Riverside this season.

11. We are now the third highest scorers in the Championship overall with 45 goals. Cardiff and Crystal Palace are joint top with 47 each.

12. Six points out of nine over Christmas is a very good return; admittedly, it could have been better, but it could easily have been worse.

13. On the negative side... in addition to four of our defenders, the likes of Carayol, Main, Haroun and McEachran are also injured. A possible crisis?

14. Most importantly, we may have won five home games out of six since November 3, taking our tally of home wins to a highly commendable ten - and no Boro team has managed that by this stage of the season since Big Jack's Division Two Champions of 1973/74! - but we've also won just one match on the road since then. And although I have faith in the team continuing to be virtually impregnable at what's becoming Fortress Riverside, we'll have to improve on our travels to consolidate a promotion place.

As for the "Typical Boro" question, well... I've given up trying to address this matter because if Mogga can't, frankly, who can? What we can be proud of is the greater resilience shown by the lads so far this season. Important, too, that we finished 2012 with a victory - if we hadn't, it would surely have dented our confidence in the new year.

And what a year it's been. After a depressing second half of 2011/12, with few moments of light relief in between, left our hopes for 2012/13 pretty much "up in the air", we've bounced back with a stronger, more determined, more spirited squad and a run of results (and performances) that, for the most part, have left Boro fans everywhere with real reason to believe.

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A message from the editor...

It's hard to believe it's been more than a year since Si's Insights hit the web. Since November 3, 2011, we have clocked up 72 articles, numerous comments and over 7,000 hits - by covering all range of topics relating to Boro and beyond. Sure, some articles have been more popular than others, and we do regret having to take a hiatus during a highly enjoyable Boro run (excessive workloads can't be helped, alas), but with a new year comes a clean slate, and as much as we hope Boro can continue their current great form into 2013, we will continue to do everything we can to give you what we promise: the biggest, boldest and best on the Boro from the island of Ireland.

We're always welcome to suggestions for improvement, too. What do you, as readers, want to see? More "Back In Time" columns? More "Appreciations"? Or perhaps you'd like to contribute yourselves? Please get in touch with us via the "Contact" button at the top of the page. We'd like to hear from you.

Thanks for helping to make Si's Insights what it is today... and Happy New Year to all of you!

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