Posts Tagged ‘Middlesbrough FC’

Middlesbrough v Luton Town, Saturday 10th December 2022, 3pm

December 11, 2022

It seems ages since we’ve been to the Riverside, but it’s just five weeks. In that time though I’ve seen ten games elsewhere including fixtures in Latvia and Qatar, so it’s little wonder that the memories of the draw against Bristol City on the afternoon of Bonfire Night have already faded.

Jen and I drove back from Cumbria on the morning of the game. We’d stayed over the night before after a Boo Hewerdine gig. The trip had also given us the opportunity to do a little bit more of the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail. We did the good bits in the middle of the route ten years ago, but have recently been completing the sections at the western end. There’s not much wall to see, but it’s easy walking and well-signposted, so requires little preparation other than remembering where we left the trail on the previous visit.

On this occasion we had time to walk for six miles from Crosby on Eden to Rickerby Park and back. The temperature rarely got above zero and we saw little wildlife other than geese and robins, but it was great to be out in the fresh air before the daylight faded.

The gig was very good too. Boo was playing in the village hall in Armathwaite which has a capacity of less than one hundred. There was no bar, but everyone was encouraged to bring their own drink and we had a great view from the front row. Jen was a bit worried that he might think we were stalking him as we were front row in a small club in Bradford for one of his gigs last year, but I don’t think he recognized us.

I remember being front row for Mark Lamarr at the Comedy Store in Leicester Square thirty-five years ago. I had my beer resting on the stage and then my feet. Lamarr and I exchanged a few words during the show, culminating in him asking if I thought I could do better than him and then challenging me to step up on to the stage. I accepted his invitation and did an impression of Mr. Whippy having a shit. It got as big a laugh as he had done all night. Thankfully for the people of Armathwaite, the stage was too far away for me to put my feet up and there was no reprise of my brief stand-up career.

Having dropped off Jen, I picked up Harry and Alistair and we made our way to the Riverside. Talk was all about how Carrick was likely to have benefitted from the World Cup break with him having had the chance to get his ideas across the players. We also wondered how Riley McGree would do after the career high of playing in a World Cup against Messi.

Initially it looked as if there had been little benefit to us from the World Cup break as we struggled to assert ourselves against Luton, but we grew more into the game as the first half progressed. McGree looked more confident than usual, so perhaps there was a Qatar dividend. With time running out another Crooksy cameo goal took the three points and moved us into the top half of the table.

Middlesbrough v Bristol City, Saturday 5th November 2022, 3pm

November 7, 2022

As expected, Gibbo had appointed Michael Carrick as manager, with Leo taking a backroom role away from the first team as something to do with player development. I suspect that he will drop in back in as caretaker again when Carrick gets the chop, presumably next October.

It was a surprise to see Johnny Woodgate back as a coach. I suspect that was Gibbo’s idea rather than Carrick’s, but I’ve been impressed by Woodgate whenever I’ve heard him on the radio talking about coaching or providing analysis. I think he will make a contribution.

Alistair was available to come with us again and was wearing a boro scarf when I picked him up. When he first came along last season, he told us he was a Man City fan, so I’m hoping that these trips to the Riverside have converted him to his local team. I got him the white third strip for his birthday recently so hopefully that will help too.

Carrick had been in charge for a couple of away games with a last gasp defeat at Preston and a good win at Hull. He’s tinkered with the formation, moving Akpom back into a supporting three, behind Forss. It seems to be working reasonable well and hasn’t impacted upon Akpom’s scoring streak.

We started poorly again, conceding within ten minutes after City opened us up far too easily. Boro got better as the half went on though and the visitors had their goalie to thank for going in at the break a goal up.

Chris Kamara got a warm reception when he came onto the pitch at half-time. It was heart-breaking to hear his difficulties with his speech, but great to see him out and about.

In the second half we continued to create chances but took just the one with Akpom scoring for the third game in a row and his fourth goal in five games. Strange to think that both Warnock and Wilder had written him off for such a long time. The performance and the point were generally well-received and with the World Cup break just a week away, there’s going to be time for the new manager to get his ideas across to the players.

Middlesbrough v Huddersfield Town, Saturday 22nd October 2022, 3pm

October 26, 2022

It’s been a while since Harry’s cousin Alistair has been able to come along to the match with us. He’s a kid with lots to do and plenty of people to see, mainly on Saturdays it seems. In fact, it’s been so long that he’s been able to grow his hair sufficiently for him to attract ‘Jack Grealish’ comments from passers-by.

It wasn’t the best of games for Alistair to make his return. We struggled to create much and whilst I think that Leo’s decision to play four at the back best suits the players that we have, it seems a waste of Giles to play him at left back. If he’s focusing on defending, then it limits his opportunities to get crosses into the box and we don’t have anyone better than him at doing that. I’d go 4-4-2 with him and Jones both playing wide and feeding Muniz and Watmore. If Coburn hadn’t been loaned out, I think he would have thrived in that formation.

Anyway, it was goalless and a less than ideal send-off for Leo. Highlight of the afternoon for Harry and Alistair was having a post-match kickabout in the car park with some of the Cook Islands rugby league players who were in town for their World Cup and had been watching from the posh seats behind Gibbo. I suspect that the kickabout was the highlight of their day too.

Middlesbrough v Blackburn Rovers, Saturday 15th October 2022, 3pm

October 18, 2022

It’s getting on for a fortnight since Gibbo pulled the plug on Wilder and there’s no sign of a replacement. Rumours of Rob Edwards, Michael Carrick and even Lee Cattermole have been doing the rounds but with no word from the club yet.

I’d assumed that there had been some sort of succession plan in place similar to when Woodgate and Warnock got the bullet but it seems not. That suggests to me that the Wilder decision came suddenly, perhaps after a bit of a bust-up.

The game started badly with us failing to pick up players from a set piece and Blackburn were a goal up within a couple of minutes. They added a second a quarter of an hour in with a shot from distance that left Steffen flat-footed. If Joe Lumley had conceded that one last season there would have been hell on. Steffen made up for it though in the remainder of the half with some excellent saves to keep the game alive.

Watmore nicked a goal just before the break to give us hope that there might be something to be had from the game. We played a lot better in the second half, particularly after Leo switched to a back four. I think that formation suits the players that we’ve got as playing with wingbacks who don’t offer much defensively leaves us exposed at times, particularly now that Tav isn’t there to bail out Howson and Crooks.

The late improvement wasn’t enough to nick a point and we slipped back into the bottom three. If Huddersfield and Coventry were to win their games in hand, then we’d be rock-bottom. Whoever comes in certainly has some work to do.

Middlesbrough v Birmingham City, Wednesday 5th October 2022, 7.45pm

October 13, 2022

It’s that time of year when the nights draw in and Gibbo pulls the plug on the manager. I remember when he had a reputation for giving them time, too much time probably. Not these days though. It doesn’t seem like long since Karanka left, but we’ve burned through Agnew, Monk, Pulis, Woodgate, Warnock and now Wilder. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve missed one or two off that list as well.

I parked in the college on the other side of the ground, as Harry had rugby practice and I thought we might be cutting it fine if I parked in our usual location of near to the old Gazette building. It worked, but at the price of taking ages to get out afterwards. I think I’d rather gamble on missing the first few minutes for any further Wednesday night games.

Caretaker boss Leo did well. He didn’t try to reinvent the wheel and kept the wing-back system that had produced diminishing returns as Wilder’s tenure drew to a close. He brought in youngster Hayden Hackney though and the lad impressed with his energy in a midfield that often looks pedestrian these days. The overall performance didn’t seem much different from recent weeks but a first half goal from Akpom was enough to clinch the points and move us out of the relegation zone.

Middlesbrough v Cardiff City, Tuesday 13th September 2022, 7.45pm

October 2, 2022

I wasn’t sure if I’d get to this game as we had a fairly tight train connection in London on the way back from our Belgium trip. It went ok though and I was back in the house by six o’clock. I picked up Harry and we were at the Riverside in plenty of time.

A quick glance at the team news revealed that Roberts was still in goal, so presumably Steffen wasn’t yet fully fit. I was happy enough with that as Roberts has done well in the games that he has played. The other talking point was Wilder’s persistence with McGree in the number ten role. I sort of understood this when the transfer window was open, if he was trying to make a point that we needed another striker. However, with the deadline passed it’s time to revert to his regular system of two hard-pressing strikers that are replaced by another two front men when they tire.

The first half performance was flat, so flat that we went in at the break three-nil down. We had plenty of possession but never looked like creating anything worthwhile whilst Cardiff seemed likely to score whenever they broke up field.

A few people around us left at half-time and others followed them early in the second half. Watmore added some urgency to proceedings when he came on and notched a consolation with fifteen minutes to go. Muniz then quickly added a second goal and suddenly it was game on. We pushed for an equalizer, but Cardiff held on for the points.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland, Monday 5th September 2022, 8pm

September 6, 2022

It’s been a frustrating start to the season with points dropped to late goals in games where our performances have generally been good. The transfer activity was mainly done early on, and the window closed without us recruiting a replacement for Tav or any of the expensive strikers that we had been linked with.

Nevertheless, I was confident that we’d have sufficient quality to beat Sunderland in a game where most pre-match discussion seems to revolve around whether or not it’s a ‘derby’. I don’t really see why the label matters. There’s certainly a north-east rivalry with bragging rights between neighbours and workmates and that’s enough to give it an extra edge over a game against the likes of Reading or Cardiff.

Harry and I were there reasonably early and stopped to look at the statue of George Camsell. I was impressed with it. I also like the idea of celebrating our history with statutes as when you’ve only ever had one trophy in the cabinet the players who’ve performed for us fill that gap to an extent.

I’m not sure about the placement though, I think it makes the area near to the gates look cluttered. I’d prefer to see the statues placed around the stadium perimeter, perhaps supplemented by a few more. Rioch and Todd in their shorts in a dugout would be good, as would one of Jackie collecting tracksuit tops whilst smoking a cigar. Maybe a horizontal Massimo heading that goal that took us to Eindhoven.

The other main talking point was the return of Tony Mowbray as the new Sunderland manager. He gets a lot of leeway from me and he’d probably have to start molesting cats before I’d consider he’d tarnished his legacy. He stayed fairly low key, but got a chorus of ‘He’s One Of Our Own’ from the South Stand. It wasn’t on a par with the reception that he received when he returned with Ipswich as a player, but that was a high bar. Despite his current job I’d keep him on the statue list.

It went well on the pitch. Dael Fry came back in and showed why he should be the first name on the team sheet and Isaiah Jones looked to be getting back to his best. Liam Roberts commanded his box well and made the case to keep his place when Zak Steffan regains fitness. The single goal meant that we could never relax until the final whistle, but for a change we held on to take all three points.

Middlesbrough v Sheffield United, Sunday 14th August 2022, 2pm

August 26, 2022

Harry and Alistair were both away on holiday, so I went along to this game by myself. It was a hot day and there was plenty of drinking going on at the bar outside the main gates. It didn’t seem as busy as the season opener a fortnight ago, but I suppose it’s a bit more difficult for a lot of people to travel on a Sunday.

I should have arrived earlier as the food and drink kiosks inside were sold out of diet coke and water. If I’d wanted a non-sugary drink, then coffee or tea were the only options left. Surely, it’s not too much to ask for to have sufficient stocks of drinks that would have sell-by dates well into next year. I think part of the problem is the free drink scheme where mainly old folks seemed determined to take up their entitlement regardless of whether they wanted to drink it or not. Maybe I’ll have to start bringing my own supplies.

The game was decent. We started slowly but scored an excellent equalizer after some good one touch passing to open them up. We conceded another in the second half but drew level in the last few minutes. A draw always feels better when you come from behind.

I’d have liked to see Fry and Steffan lumping it forward on fewer occasions, but in the absence of Crooks and with a few new signings still to come, I was happy enough with the performance.

A downside was the constant aggro between the home and away supporters where they were segregated by stewards. I’d have just removed anyone who took a step into the empty seats between themselves and the opposition fans. It won’t be long before there are fences between blocks at this rate. Another pitch invader increased the likelihood of fences between us and the pitch too. It’s as if Hillsborough and Valley Parade never happened.

Middlesbrough v West Brom, Saturday 30th July 2022, 3pm

August 19, 2022

I’ve already been to a competitive game this season in the Women’s Euros at Southampton and a couple of pre-season friendlies, but this one felt like the proper opening fixture of the season. Alistair was away for the weekend, so it was just Harry and I that went along.

You never really know what you might see on the river outside the ground and there was a new structure there this week. I suspect that it was something to do with the oil and gas industry but that’s about the best I can do in pinning down its identity.

Pre-match talk was inevitably about the personnel changes, mainly the arrival of the American goalie and Tav’s move to Bournemouth. Zack Steffan’s loan signing looks a good move, both for him and us, but I was disappointed with Tav’s departure, particularly without a replacement having been brought in. I appreciate the pull of the Premier League though and hope he does well.

One of the biggest surprises has been the re-integration of Chuba Akpong after his banishment to Greece and then the U21s. He started this one and did well, combining well with Ryan Giles to set up an early goal for Isaiah Jones. We had a second one disallowed shortly after and at that stage it looked like an easy three points.

It rarely pans out in the way that you expect though and West Brom equalized soon after the restart for the second half. They could have won it too, as despite us having most of the possession the better chances fell to them. I reckon a draw was a fair result though and with another forty-five games and hopefully a few more signings to come, I’m happy enough with the point.

Morecambe v Middlesbrough, Tuesday 19th July 2022, 7pm

July 25, 2022

I’d not been to the Mazuma stadium before and so I was pleased when the Boro announced a pre-season friendly at Morecambe. With nothing going on in the afternoon of the game I had plenty of time to drive across, taking a scenic route via Askrigg, Hawes, Ribblehead and Ingleton. I should have left even earlier and had a wander around at the viaduct as it looked magnificent in the early evening light.

My knowledge of Morecambe is limited. If I’ve given it any thought whatsoever, I suppose I’ve considered it a sort of Blackpool-lite. I arrived early enough to head for the seafront and have fish and chips for tea, near to the statue of Eric Morecambe. Whilst a lot of the country had been staying indoors to mitigate the impact of the forty degree heat, Morecambe residents were out on the beach.

I still tend to think of Morecambe FC as a non-league side, despite it being fifteen years since they reached the Football League. It turns out that they are actually in League One these days, just one step below the Boro.

I did a lap of the ground before finding the correct turnstile and took a seat towards the back of the Boro section. Around six hundred fans had made the trip and after a while the majority took the rare opportunity of sitting at an away game.

Boro had Ryan Giles at left-wing back, and he picked out a player in the box to gain an assist for each of our three first half goals. If we can attack effectively down both flanks this season, then it will hopefully deter teams from doubling up on Isaiah Jones.

There was some neat, quick passing through the midfield as we built from the back with Tav involved in most of the moves. He’ll be hard to replace if the rumoured Premier League does happen this summer.

At the interval I went downstairs for a drink. The queue was slow, probably on the basis that there was a big demand for their award-winning pies. They looked to have a decent beer selection too.

Morecambe had Conor Ripley in goal. He’s a player that I’ve kept an eye on since he left the Boro and it looks as if he should get some game time this season after his bench-warming at Preston. He took some stick from some Boro fans over his weight but reacted good-naturedly. He put in a good performance, pulling off some decent saves and wasn’t at fault for any of the goals.

The tempo slowed in the second half as the effect of playing in the heat and the impact of the substitutions took its toll. Overall though, we looked good and whilst the squad still needs to be added to I’m hopeful of a good start to the season proper.