Posts Tagged ‘Middlesbrough FC’

Middlesbrough v Stoke City, Saturday 30th April 2022, 3pm

May 9, 2022

My niece’s son, Alistair, came along to this one with Harry and myself. His Dad, who I don’t think is really into football, has tried to make Alistair into a Man City fan. I’m hoping that if he enjoys being at the Riverside for a few wins then he might just switch allegiance. He’s seven, so it’s ok at that age.

The Boro’s first half performance was enough to have him cheering and stood on his chair in celebration as we knocked in two goals in quick succession and had a ‘third’ disallowed.

With a real third goal in the second half, it looked as if the goal difference with Sheffield United had moved sufficiently to make a win at Preston enough for a play-off spot, assuming of course that that Sheffield only get a draw in their fixture against Champions Fulham. A last-gasp consolation skewed all of the calcs though and it now looks like we will need a two-goal win for our part of the equation.

There was a disruption in the second half when a young lad ran on the pitch to get himself a selfie with Tav. He looked in his teens to me and therefore old enough for some rough tackling by the stewards. The upshot was that his Dad, who filmed the invasion and was then abusive to the stewards, got a life ban. That’s fair enough in my view as I consider that when the pitch side fences came down, our part in the bargain as fans is that we stay off the pitch. I don’t want to go back to watching games through wire mesh.

We hung around at the end for the lap of honour and applauded the players and staff. It’s been a good season whatever the result at Preston and the form that coincided with our half-season tickets looked to have got Harry hooked. I think that if we are in the Championship next season and can keep racking up the home victories, there’s a good chance of Alistair joining him as a Boro fan.

Middlesbrough v Cardiff City, Wednesday 27th April 2022, 7.45pm

May 7, 2022

This was another game that needed a brisk walk to make kick-off. Harry had been at his final rugby training of the season and with them not finishing until well after seven we had to get a move on. One of his teammates laughed at the idea that he was going to watch us play Cardiff, presumably that lad only considers the games against the likes of Spurs or Chelsea worth turning up to.

For most of the walk to the ground we were the only people around. It wasn’t until the Riverside was in sight that we caught up with the other stragglers. We arrived just as the Cardiff players were taking the knee and then sat down at exactly the time the ref blew his whistle to get things underway.

The atmosphere seemed a little on the flat side. Understandable, I suppose, considering the way that we’ve dropped to the edges of the play-off race. We started slowly but once Tav had knocked home the opener there wasn’t really much doubt about us taking the points. A second goal from McGree made sure.

I’d have been happier if we could have added another to peg back the goal difference with Sheff Utd, but there are a couple of further opportunities to do that and if, a big if, we can win our final two games then I think that there’s a chance that we can overtake them for that sixth spot.

Middlesbrough v Huddersfield Town, Monday 18th April 2022, 12.30pm

May 3, 2022

I’d got back home from Bournemouth after midnight on the Friday night and with plans to take in a non-league game on the Saturday. The fixture I’d selected at Murton didn’t take place for some reason though and I had to head back down the A19. The rest of that day was filled with Stockton Calling, a music festival spread over eleven venues and with eight bands. I saw thirteen of the bands in eight different locations. All of them were good, although with some of them I only caught three or four songs as I nipped in somewhere midway through a set.

Most bands played for thirty minutes which is pretty much perfect for a festival and despite it not selling out for the first time in ages, there was a great atmosphere from people glad to be out and about again seeing gigs.

Sunday was a music day too as I headed up to see Paul Weller at Newcastle City Hall.  Whilst I’ve seen him many times over the years my mind went back to being at the same venue for a Jam gig forty years ago to the month. On that occasion I’d watched the Boro win at Roker Park in the afternoon and then took a train into Newcastle to round off one of the best days that I’d ever had at that time.

Forty years on from 1982, Weller still put on an excellent show. I think that Fat Pop is his best album for years and, as with the bands the previous day, he really seemed to be enjoying himself too. I doubt I’ll be seeing him forty years from now but hopefully there will be further opportunities. It’s certainly much more likely that I’ll see him than the Boro playing Sunderland.

Back to the Huddersfield game. Harry and I cut it fine again as I hadn’t realised that I’d have to pay to park on a Bank Holiday. The machines don’t take money any more and so I had to download an App and pay remotely. Pain in the arse, but we arrived as the teams were lining up.

It was another poor performance to follow on from the home defeats to Fulham and Hull. A late McGree effort that hit the bar was as close as we came to scoring. The optimism from earlier in the season has just about evaporated and it’s difficult to see where the next win will come from, never mind the four from four that will likely be needed for a play-off spot.

Bournemouth v Middlesbrough, Friday 15th April 2022, 3pm

May 2, 2022

At the start of this season, I still had four Championship grounds to tick off. Everything had gone to plan so far and prior to this game Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium was the only one remaining. I didn’t really fancy heading there and back in a day trip, particularly with Bank Holiday traffic and so I went down to London a couple of days in advance and then got a train from Waterloo on the morning of the game.

As there is always stuff to do in London I’d gone along to a Sea Power gig at the Roundhouse the night before. They were as good as they always are and back up to full strength with Phil being available due to it being a school holiday and Abi having found someone to look after the sheep.

The train journey took just under two hours and passed through Southampton and Brockenhurst, both places that I’m familiar with from working down there thirteen or fourteen years ago. I passed sections of the New Forest that I’d walked in, pubs that I’d drank in and the seven a side pitches that I played on after work.

There were plenty of Boro fans on the train, but on leaving from the station most of them headed into town whilst I followed the signs for Boscombe Beach.

I walked for a few hundred yards parallel to the sea and then went for a stroll along the pier. Strolling seems compulsory on a pier. There was a bloke fishing off the end but I couldn’t see if he had managed to catch anything. There were a few holes of crazy golf with a sign warning that lost balls would be charged at a quid-fifty a go. It’s hard to imagine anyone playing a round without hitting a ball off the edge into the water.

After some lunch and a pint overlooking the sea, I headed for the ground. It took around half an hour. There was a drinking area outside but for home supporters only. That seemed a bit inhospitable, do they think that we are incapable of having a drink without being an arse?

With nothing worth hanging around outside for I headed in and after being extremely thoroughly searched I was able to watch the back end of the Luton – Forest game in the concourse.

For some reason I’d assumed the Vitality Stadium was a new ground, but it seems that it’s just a new name. Dean Court was rebuilt apparently twenty years or so ago with a ninety degree rotation but I think some of the stand to my left had been kept. It looked that way anyway, surely nobody would build a stand in the twenty-first century that still had columns obscuring the view.

It was good to see Jones back on the pitch, but he seemed off the pace and with a much less sure touch than normal. Perhaps his illness was still affecting him. Bamba had a good game again filling in for Fry. He didn’t ever move quickly but rarely had to as his positioning was spot on and that invariably gave him the time to do whatever was needed. Daniels returned in goal and put in a solid performance, but we never looked like scoring.

Still, an away point at a promotion contender is a decent result and with all the Championship grounds now ticked off it made for a decent day out.

Middlesbrough U23 v Newcastle United U23, Friday April 1st 2022, 7pm

April 3, 2022

I’ve seen a couple of Boro U23 games this season, but they were primarily to tick off new grounds and I hadn’t really thought of going along to the Riverside to watch them. However, I’d been down there earlier in the day to renew the season cards and, on a whim, asked if the car parks were open. They were, at a cost of two quid. That made for an easy evening out, where I could leave the house at half past six, park up and watch a game that’s included in the season card package.

The lower tier of the West Stand was open and I picked a seat in the back row. Those ones are usually used by the occupants of the executive boxes so it had a small amount of padding on it. I think that if I was paying a couple of hundred quid a game for my seat I’d want some sort of Jim’ll Fix It style armchair.

The attendance wasn’t announced but I’d estimate that there were a few hundred there including a handful with Newcastle colours on. A bit of chanting broke out late on with one Geordie having both his BMI and parentage questioned. He took it in good humour and flashed a tattoo of his club’s initials around his belly button displaying a well-earned beer gut that wasn’t far off needing a wheelbarrow to move it around.

It was an entertaining game. Boro bossed the first half and genuinely could have gone in at the break six or seven up but for some poor finishing that limited the score at that time to two-nil. Newcastle came back into it in the second half and we finished with a four-two home win.

Joe Gibson was the stand-out performer, driving forward from midfield and creating a lot of our chances. I kept a close eye on Nathan Wood and thought he did well. He played on the right of a back three and if he wants to displace Anfernee Dijksteel from the first team, he still has some improvement to make in his attacking play. Sol Brynn looked solid in goal, it’s a shame that he had his Scottish loan cut short as I think he’d have gained better experience at that level.

The car park emptied quickly, and I was home fifteen minutes after the final whistle. Perfect.

Middlesbrough v Chelsea, Saturday 19th March 2022, 5.15pm

March 24, 2022

I suppose the Boro’s cup run was always likely to come to an end against Chelsea. They are a step above the two Premier League sides that we’d put out in earlier rounds and if we were to have progressed then we would have needed to be at the top of our game and for Chelsea to have an off-day.

We played ok, but the gulf in class on the pitch was just too much and at two down in the first half hour I feared the worst. We didn’t crumble though and whilst they might have taken their foot off the pedal, we just needed a bit of luck to bring us back into the game. Even up until the final few moments I kept thinking that if we could just nick one…

Harry and I were in the front row of the West Stand Upper again. The atmosphere wasn’t as good as against Spurs, but early goals conceded tend to have that effect. The crowd picked up in the second half though and if we had scored it would have lifted the roof off. I though Tav was immense. If there are any haters still around then that performance should surely shut them up for good. Or at least until there’s a misplaced pass.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about the cup run is that we took it seriously. There was a strong side against Mansfield and then we were at full-strength for the three ties against Premier League opposition. That’s how it should be, so it’s another well-done to Chris Wilder.

Boro bowing out ended my personal cup run too. I’d started off in August at Ryhope in the Extra Preliminary Round and took in a match in each subsequent stage, ticking off eight new grounds. The Boro got involved after that and I was able to follow them to Mansfield and Man United before the home ties with Spurs and Chelsea. Twelve rounds in all. The only way that I could have continued the streak to Wembley would have been if we’d got there. And I suppose that’s how it should be as I wouldn’t really want to take the seat of a fan of the competing clubs at that stage. It won’t be long until August though and it will all start again.

Middlesbrough v Coventry City, Saturday 29th January 2022, 3pm

February 5, 2022

This game against Coventry was the third of the eleven that Harry and I get to see with our half-season tickets. The previous two matches had seen us take an in-form Forest team apart and then nick a win at the death against Reading.

Ever the optimist, Harry was confident that Coventry wouldn’t pose a problem, but mindful of the performance against Reading and the defeat away at Blackburn since then I wasn’t quite so sure.

It was a cold day again, with the wind making it even chillier. I was well wrapped up but the grandson was kitted out in a hoodie and one of his Dad’s old Boro shirts. I gave him my gloves when he started to shiver.

The game played out more in line with my expectations than Harry’s with Coventry looking the better side for much of the first half. Wilder made a couple of changes early in the second half and they paid off almost straight away with Balogun crossing for Sporar to tuck away the only goal of the game.

I was impressed again with the way that Wilder made a difference. He only seems to make substitutions to address a specific issue and so far they have paid off more often than not. Even better was him explaining his reasoning for the changes in post-game interviews in an intelligent and informative manner. It’s a long way from the guarded folksy platitudes of Warnock and light years away from the pig-ignorant nonsense that was dished up in the Strachan era. It’s a good time to be following the Boro.

Middlesbrough v Reading, Saturday 15th January 2022, 3pm

January 16, 2022

Well, how enjoyable was that? There’s nothing like a last gasp winner to put a smile on your face. Harry reckoned it must have been the best Boro comeback ever. “Could be,” I hedged, casting my mind back to Bucharest and Basle. Nobody wants to hear old blokes rattling on about things that happened before you were born though and so I passed on the opportunity to piss on his chips.

It was freezing in our East Stand seats. So cold that earlier in the day I’d just about killed off the rescue fish that have been living in a bucket in the kitchen. Their new home is going to be a big sink in the garden originally intended to be a planter. A two hour outdoor acclimatization spell in near freezing temperatures had caused them all to float on their backs and, whilst I’m no vet, that’s rarely a good sign in fish. After being brought back inside and having some warm water added they returned to normal. Maybe I’ll have to postpone their move for a bit longer.

If you were wondering what rescue fish are, they are minnows, sold as live food for other bigger fish to eat. I thought they might enjoy a life in a garden sink a bit more. I’m not so sure now.

Anyway, the game. We had a few chances first half but let them back into it after the break. Andy Carroll scored from a header for them and with time running out Mat Crooks headed an equalizer and then deep into injury time, a winner.

It wasn’t as good a performance as against Forest but I was pleased that Wilder had a Plan B. And then a Plan C.

Mansfield Town v Middlesbrough, Saturday 8th January 2022, 12.15pm

January 12, 2022

I’ve been attending each round of this season’s FA Cup since the opening Extra Preliminary round back in August. As we’ve now reached the Third Round I had the option of continuing my streak to a ninth successive round by taking in a Boro game away at Mansfield.

The bad news, however, was that we had only been allocated 1700 tickets. At fifteen quid a pop they would be in high demand and I knew that I wouldn’t have sufficient priority points to get one. With that in mind I got in touch with Mansfield early on and nabbed a couple of hospitality tickets in the 1861 lounge for forty quid each. Result, as they say, and a bargain too.

Stadium parking wasn’t included in the price but I was ok with that as I didn’t want to be trapped at the ground after the game. We ended up in a car park about five minute’s walk away and Jen and I just followed the locals on a route that included a short cut through someone’s garden.

We had an hour to while away in the lounge before the 12.15 kick-off and after my second breakfast of the day, this time a full English, we were entertained by the recollections of former Mansfield player Micky Laverick. His heyday was the mid-seventies and I got the impression that era was Mansfield’s peak to date.

As kick-off approached we made our way out to the Ian Greaves Stand and our centrally located seats in the upper tier. My records state that I’d been to the ground before, thirty-five years previously in the first Rioch promotion season. Even after looking around, I’ve no recollection whatsoever of the game or even the day.

We were sat two rows behind the media people. I’ve no idea who does the Boro commentary these days as I gave up trying to connect when I was in Russia. I didn’t see anyone behind a microphone that I recognized but I was able to keep an eye on the young lad from the Northern Echo typing his updates.

The Boro support had the stand to our left. They kept up a decent volume throughout the game and the “Mansfield’s a shithole” ditty raised a few laughs from the home fans around us. “It is, mind” said one, “but it’s our shithole”. I know the feeling.

I was a little worried to learn that this was the strongest team that Mansfield had been able to field for a while. As we only had three players starting that I’d consider to be in our first-choice XI there was potential for an upset. It all went well to begin with though and we were two up early on with chances to put the tie out of Mansfield’s reach within the first twenty minutes.

The home side were better in the second half and we struggled to stay on top. It seemed to take a while for Wilder to get his instructions understood and as we gradually replaced the fringe players with regular starters Mansfield got back into it.

There were joyous celebrations all around us as they pulled one back and then equalized. Had the game gone to extra-time then I’d have made them favourites to win. As so often happens these days though Isaiah Jones made the difference when his injury time cross was diverted into the net for a match-winning own goal.

Roll on Round Four.

Stoke City v Middlesbrough, Saturday 11th December 2021, 3pm

December 15, 2021

The Bet365 stadium, or the Britannia Stadium as it was formerly known, is another of those grounds that I’ve never been to but feel as if I should have done. Still, it’s never too late until they’ve been demolished and so I got myself a ticket in the Boro section behind one of the goals. The tickets didn’t quite sell out but with almost seventeen hundred there it was still a sizeable away contingent.

Jen and I decided to stay over on the Saturday night and booked in at the Sutherland Arms which is about half an hour’s walk from the stadium. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful with food and beer suggestions and as it was raining quite heavily kindly arranged me a taxi to the ground.

They also suggested that we tried oatcakes from a shop over the road. I’ve a feeling that oatcakes are the Stoke equivalent of a parmo and that everyone visiting town will be asked if they’ve had one. As breakfast choices were limited and the oatcake shop opened at seven on a Sunday morning we had one before we left the next day. It was ok, just a pancake style wrap really, but when filled with egg, bacon and sausage it hit the spot.

The taxi dropped me close to the ground and after initially heading for the wrong turnstiles and then a quick body search outside the correct ones I was soon inside. The concourse area was far too small for the amount of fans that we had brought and it was a squeeze to move around. I eventually jostled my way to the bar for a final pre-match drink. It didn’t seem wise to try and carry a pint so I opted for a bottle of cider but still had to put my thumb over the opening as young lads around me bounced up and down.

The air quality in the enclosed space was already suffering from the usual farts and body odour but got worse when someone lit a flare. Maybe I’m just too old for that sort of thing but who would think that it’s fun to light one of these indoors in an over-packed space? Oh, and what’s the idea behind the song calling a former Geordie number nine a ‘sex offender’? Don’t we have enough historical local experience of false allegations in this field to be better than that?

I chugged my cider as quickly as I could and headed up to my seat. Boro had made a couple of changes with Lumley returning in goal and Fry at centre-back. I’m not sure that I really rate any of the keepers that we have so I don’t suppose it matters much which one plays. It was good to see Fry back in the side though and I thought he had a decent game, directing operations from the back and looking to drive forward whenever there was a gap.

The Britannia Stadium appeared to be not much more than half-full to me so I was surprised to read that there were more than twenty-one thousand there. Perhaps a few season ticket holders had gone Christmas shopping. Three sides of the ground were in a horseshoe but the main stand not only stood alone but stood well back from the pitch. When combined with a very gradual incline it meant that fans in that part of the ground were a long way from the action. With all the money that the Bet365 owners have they might want to consider building a new stand next to the touchline.

Neither side created much of note. Duncan Whatmore had a reasonable chance for us and one of the Stoke players put a header wide towards the end but otherwise it was a game where not much went on. I think a goalless draw was about right.

On leaving my seat at full-time I found myself trapped in the concourse with the exit gates locked and more fans coming down the steps behind me. It’s bad enough being packed in like sardines during covid anyway but there really is no excuse for potential crushes at football. Eventually the gates burst open under the pressure, clattering a steward on the other side.

The issue arose from the local police decision to stop away fans leaving the stadium for half an hour after the game. I hopped on a shuttle bus that was headed for the station on the basis that I might as well sit down whilst waiting and it would be easier to get an onward taxi from there. Other fans weren’t so comfortable as they were kettled and then pepper sprayed. It’s as if we were in the eighties all over again.