Saturday, 23 February 2013

Seventh Hell: Lions Loss Puts The Boot In Boro

The minor optimism gleaned from a rare clean sheet, if not a win, evaporated today as two first-half Millwall goals set Boro on the way to their seventh defeat of 2013 and into seventh spot; the first time Boro have been outside the top six this season in just over four months. A tactical shuffle and a late Main goal spurred Boro into a late flurry of attacking play, but by then, it was too little, too late; Scott McDonald's injury time "equaliser", had it stood, would have masked yet another shocking display. One which resulted in Millwall's first win following five successive defeats, an uncomfortable reminder of Boro's regular status as the go-to opposition for ending a bad run. Nice to know that there's something consistent about this club of ours.
I think we need not regurgitate the kind of adjectives used to describe, with the exception of Leeds, Burnley and Hastings, a Boro performance in 2013. But I'll do it anyway: "no show" (see: Derby, the second half of Watford, Ipswich, Palace), "slack" (see: all our defeats this year, Leicester and Watford possibly excepted), "sloppy, lazy and disinterested" (see: Ipswich), "dire" (see: Crystal Palace, all of Kieron Dyer's performances), "awful" (see: Crystal Palace), and "dreadful" (see: Faris Haroun, for the most part). Apart from the final fifteen minutes of the game, every single one of those words apply to Boro's "efforts" against Millwall. And they will continue to apply to Boro unless our players pull their socks up, fully understand the severity of the slump (it still appears as if they haven't) and work as a unit to turn everything around.

Fans will argue that the trouble started when we left Pride Park with up to seventeen players injured... almost as many as the amount of "unavailable" players that caused us to make a certain ill-fated decision in 1996. But to me, the true turning point came that fateful Saturday against Watford. After cruising past Hastings in the cup, we were dominating the Hornets at the Riverside without scoring. It seemed only a matter of time before our patient, composed, fluent probing resulted in a goal. Then Rhys made his mistake, Vydra capitalised ruthlessly, and that was that. Since then, both Rhys and Boro have never been the same, and Watford have won six games out of eight, taking the second automatic promotion spot that was there for our taking that very day. How's that for cruel irony?

We have had our fair share of injuries, near misses and unlucky refereeing decisions on our way down the table, sure, and fans will say the breaks never go your way when you're in a slump. But the fact is that they're part and parcel of the game, and cannot excuse the lack of fight, desire, and drive in Boro today. The meek, passive acceptance of fate that creeps into Boro's game the moment they go behind nowadays is absolutely inexcusable.

And no, I will not take the Eamon Dunphy approach and blame the manager. Robson, McClaren and Southgate faced equally serious slumps, and, with a couple of exceptions, bounced back from them every time. However dubious Mogga's recent tactical decisions may have been, the players he has at his disposal are not helping him one bit.

Still, cup games tend to offer strong respite from bad runs in the league. Good job we're playing in the FA Cup Fifth Round on Wed- oh, wait, it's against Chelsea...

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