Monday, 7 January 2013

Back In Time: QPR 1, Middlesbrough 5, 2009/10

A game that everyone thought would set Boro back on the road to promotion...

Football is full of flattering displays; individual performances or wins that you think you can build dreams on, but they merely paper over the cracks and lead to nothing in the end. But far worse than flattering displays are compelling, commanding, convincing displays that offer plenty of reasons to dream, only for the fans to learn, sooner rather than later, that the great performance was a false dawn. An inexplicable fluke. Afonso Alves' beautifully taken double strike against Manchester United was one of these false dawns, and so was Boro's first win under Gordon Strachan, the 5-1 triumph over QPR.

To say it was unanticipated would be a massive understatement. QPR were on a bad run, but had lost just once at home all season, and Boro were already showing signs of becoming Bore-o. Yet the most unpopular manager of the Riverside era (even the insufferable Steve McClaren had some indelible achievements to fall back on) had the nerve to proclaim, after this match had finished, that he "saw it coming". I'm sorry, Gordon, but from where did you draw that conclusion? A reasonable performance against struggling Peterborough and two points from twelve does not a great result preclude.

With that in mind, I wrote Boro off and found myself working during the match instead. To me, the result, like most results under Strachan, didn't matter. Imagine my surprise when I flicked on Final Score and saw the 5-1 scoreline. If there has ever been a more ecstatic reaction from me to a Boro victory, I can't remember it.

More than that, it was fully deserved. It was an open game in which you sensed, although we shaded it early on, that whoever got the first goal would gain the momentum required to claim victory on the day. And it was on-loan Dave Kitson, fresh from scoring a double strike at London Road, who set the ball rolling, volleying home a Gary O'Neil free kick with confidence and aplomb. (Too bad it all went sour for him at Boro after this.) The unpredictable Leroy Lita had probably his best game in a Boro shirt, burying both a penalty and a narrow angled finish with emphatic conviction. (Perhaps too much conviction, actually, judging by his antics on the day - but on days like these, you could really let it pass.) And Mark Yeates, who was to be unfairly sent packing to Sheffield United in the very next transfer window, made us briefly forget Adam Johnson with a sharp, alert performance, culminating in a beaut of a fifth goal. (Even if it could really only be scored by a team with a comfortable lead - watch the goal again and you'll see what I mean.)

It was the sort of match where just about everyone in this rather mixed-up Boro team - it seemed at the time that no one, especially Strachan, knew what the best Boro XI would be! - played magnificently. Yes, even the maligned Sean St. Ledger and the forgotten Isaiah Osbourne. I should have known it was too good to be true...

...and sure enough, Boro got a Blackpool Battering at home three days later. Typical.

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