Posts Tagged ‘Middlesbrough’

Preston North End v Middlesbrough, Saturday 7th May 2022, 12.30pm

May 12, 2022

Once Harry started getting into following the Boro, I began looking at away games for us to go to. This one was always on my radar as it might very well have been the game that clinched a play-off spot or, at one stage, maybe even promotion.

The problem though was that I didn’t think that we would be able to get tickets. Our half-season cards put us a long way down the priority list and so back in February I decided to try and get something in hospitality directly from Preston. They were very good about it and despite me admitting that I was a Boro fan they sold us tickets for the Sir Tom Finney Lounge.

The Boro’s allocation turned out to be 5,600 tickets and as they reached general sale, we would have been ok, but it’s always nice to see a game in a bit of comfort so I wasn’t too disappointed that I’d shelled out more than I needed to.

The sat nav took us over the A66 and then down the M6. That’s a much more pleasant drive than the M62. There were a lot of dead badgers though. If I’d had a spade in the boot, I might have stopped and got one of their heads as I’ve often fancied having a badger skull. Harry thought that would be an odd thing to do despite him seeming happy enough with a sheep skull that I gave him a few years ago. Apparently, it’s different if you just stumble across them as opposed to deliberately carrying and using a dismembering tool. Whatever, it sparked a decent discussion over the merits of maggots v worms for removing the flesh.

We arrived about an hour before kick-off and our car park pass was waiting for us at the gate. There was time for brunch and a chat with some Preston fans on the same table. They weren’t at all hopeful of taking anything from the game and whilst they thought that there would be some players looking for new contracts, they reckoned that their team would already be ‘on the beach’.

They were wrong and Preston turned in a decent performance. With results from elsewhere not going our way the defeat didn’t make any difference to our play-off hopes and some of the players efforts might well have been useful to Wilder in helping him to make his plans for next season.

Despite the result I enjoyed the day out. It’s good to chat to the fans of the other side and Preston managed the hospitality very well. We didn’t even get kept back in the car park afterwards to let the crowds clear and were soon on the M6. That’s it for the Boro until July when I’m hoping for another season challenging at the top end of the table.

Middlesbrough v Fulham, Wednesday 6th April 2022, 7.45pm

April 8, 2022

It seems a while since Harry and I had sat in our regular seats. I checked and it’s over a month although we’ve seen the Boro away and from the West Stand in that time. It was a dash to get there as he had rugby training in Stockton that didn’t finish until after seven. I only caught the back end of the session and saw them play a couple of games of bulldog. I suppose it’s probably good practice for rugby as long as you bring the runners down with a tackle to the legs rather than a straight arm clothesline to the throat. I saw a bit of both.

As usual we parked up near the old Gazette office which meant a twenty-minute walk. It worked out fine, with us entering the East Stand with three minutes to spare and reaching our seats as Pigbag piped up. With no time for food or drink, I had to wait until half-time to get a molten lava pie. There were a lot of empty seats and clearly fewer people there than the near twenty-two thousand attendance that was announced, although with it being mid-week and also on the telly I could understand why people might not want to travel or cough up thirty odd quid.

The team news was disappointing, with Isaiah Jones missing due to illness. He makes such a difference to the team that my hopes for a win immediately changed to being happy with a point. It brought home how influential he has been in our run of good form under Chris Wilder. Lee Peltier is a decent full back, but his strengths are defensive rather than causing teams problems at the other end.

First half was cagey, and I thought that we gave them a little too much respect at times, but you could see why they have run away with the league. In the second half we picked up the tempo and looked the side most likely to score. We didn’t though, missing some decent chances and then failing to pick up Mitrovic at a free kick. His thirty-eighth goal in thirty-seven Championship games this season was enough to take the points for Fulham. Hopefully we’ll have a chance for revenge next season in the division up.

Millwall v Middlesbrough, Saturday 12th March 2022, 3pm

March 16, 2022

At the start of this season, I still had four of the current Championship grounds to tick off with a first visit. One of them was Millwall’s New Den, or as it is now getting on for thirty years old, just The Den again.  Harry was busy with a rugby tournament, so I only needed the one ticket which I was able to get fairly easily.

I booked a seat on the supporter’s club coach. I’d looked at travelling by train but that was a hundred quid more expensive and I’d have had to travel for about an hour and a half on various underground trains once there. I also thought about driving but the lack of parking and the cost and chew on of paying both a congestion charge and an emissions fee put me off. In the end the coach was the easiest option for a day trip. It was a long day though with a 7.30am departure from the Riverside and a midnight return.

The journey itself wasn’t too bad. I was fortunate that, unlike the last game, nobody was singing Boro songs at top volume. I took a book and bought a newspaper which was the first printed copy I’d read for a long time. There’s something more enjoyable about reading a real paper. Maybe I might have to start doing it more.

It took us almost seven hours to get to the Den. We passed through Greenwich towards the end of the journey, and it looks a lot smarter and more tourist-friendly than it did when I lived nearby in the mid-eighties.

The Boro had the upper tier of one of the stands behind a goal. The lower tier was kept empty except for those in wheelchairs. I spotted Paddy below me and had a half-time chat with him. He’d done it properly and driven down the day before. Maybe I should have done the same and had a mooch around Greenwich.

A benefit of having a whole stand with only the upper tier full was that the concourse area was big enough not to be crowded. I was able to watch the end of the televised lunchtime game without being jostled or having beer thrown over me. Stuff you think that you’d be able to take for granted.

I thought we performed ok. Djiksteel was a big miss going forward and we never really looked like scoring. However, we were solid at the back and on the basis that Millwall would have overtaken us if we’d lost, I was happy with a point and a clean sheet.

Middlesbrough v Luton, Saturday 5th March 2022, 3pm

March 7, 2022

Whilst we are going well in the Cup, we’ve faltered a little in the League lately with away defeats at Bristol and Barnsley contributing to a slip to eighth place. There’d been a good result for us in the Friday night game though with the draw between Sheff Utd and Forest resulting in both of the teams dropping two points.

I’d seen some of that game in the Malleable Club in what was my first visit since attending their Christmas parties as a child. Paul and I had called in on the way to see Altered Images at the Georgian. I’d read mixed reviews of their recent performances, but they did well. It seemed like an enjoyable night for both the band and the capacity crowd.

That draw meant that a win against Luton would allow us to leapfrog both them and Sheff Utd and move back up into sixth place. It’s ridiculously tight at the top of the Championship and whilst Fulham are probably far enough ahead to ensure automatic promotion the other spot could still go to any of the teams in the top eight, maybe even top ten. The play-offs are even wider open with clubs currently below half-way in the table still in with a shout.

Wilder had made two changes from the line-up that faced Spurs, switching out the strikers to allow Connolly and Balogun to start. The high-pressing game that we play makes big demands on the front-men and it makes sense to share the workload.

Luton looked a better side than us when we played them at Kenilworth Road back in October. We’ve improved considerably since those Warnock days though and, providing the Spurs game hadn’t taken too much of a toll, I was reasonably confident that we could take the points. Harry had no doubts. His logic being that if we could see off Tottenham then Luton should pose no problem at all. I was like that at his age.

Harry’s confidence wasn’t misplaced. Luton played a niggly game, trying to break up our rhythm at every opportunity. It’s exactly what we would have tried to have done under the previous manager. Once we’d got the first goal though it was always going to be difficult for them to get back into it and Watmore’s late clincher sealed the win despite an even later away consolation. The win was our ninth home league win in a row. That’s promotion form.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur, Tuesday 1st March 2022, 7.55pm

March 4, 2022

Well, well, well, how good was that? Outplaying Spurs in the fifth round of the FA Cup on a night when the game had displaced EastEnders and the like on national telly. I love the idea of people sitting down to with a cup of tea expecting to watch the Mitchell brothers gurning their way around Albert Square but instead getting a Jonny Howson masterclass and then seeing the Boro defence hardly giving Harry Kane a touch of the ball all night.

I’d switched seats for this one and so Harry and I were in the front row of the West Stand Upper. It’s the same row that Gibbo sits in, albeit around fifty yards to our right. The atmosphere was one of the best I can recall at The Riverside, maybe the best. The Liverpool game in ’98 usually gets a mention in conversations like this but that was in the pre-Red Faction days of just one singing end. When songs are started and taken up at both ends of the ground it makes it much more likely that those down the sides will join in too. And we did.

The performance was so much better than when we rode our luck to beat Man Utd in the previous round. We grew into the game in the second half and took it to them in extra-time. What a finish from Josh Coburn. He’s a fella with an eye for a goal and his strike rate per minute on the pitch must be up there with the best at the moment. Here’s hoping for a home draw in the Quarter Final.

Manchester United v Middlesbrough, Friday 4th February 2022, 8pm

February 9, 2022

When we were drawn against Man Utd in the Fourth Round of the Cup I initially thought that a televised Friday night slot and close to ten thousand tickets being available to Boro fans would make it easy for me to continue my run that stretches back to the Extra Preliminary Round back in August of having attended a game in each round of this season’s competition.

The fixture, however, caught the imagination on Teesside and it sold out long before sales reached recent season card holders like Harry and myself. Fortunately, my friend Paul saved the day with a couple of corporate hospitality tickets that he had going spare at work. Cheers, mate!

I picked Harry up when he finished school for the day and set off for a trip that on a good run would take no more than a couple of hours. With the match traffic and the usual M62 Friday tea-time congestion it ended up taking around three and a half hours. Parking spaces were non-existent and I had to leave the car in a spot where I probably shouldn’t have within our hotel car park. I’ll wait and see if the postman brings a penalty notice.

We followed the crowds to Old Trafford and reached the Sir Bobby Charlton Suite with ten minutes to spare. We had to pass through an airport-style scanner on the way in, although I’d have thought doing it on the way out to stop us nicking any silver cutlery might have been a better use of it.

The lounge was just about the right level of poshness with buffet food available and a couple of bars. It was busy, but far less of a crush than you’d get in a concourse. Our last-minute arrival meant that that we didn’t have much time for anything other than a pre-match slash, but we were in our seats as the teams came out.

We were surrounded by Man Utd fans, but they were very friendly in that way that you can be when you expect your team to win. They saw it as our ‘big day out’ and smiled indulgently at every chance they squandered, confident that there would be others. As you might have seen on the telly they ran out of chances eventually and we nicked it on pens. Big day out indeed.

I was interested in their attitude to Phil Jones. He’s been out injured for a long time and his appearance from the bench was treated with mirth. They praised everything he did with a smirk, as if he was there as a competition winner or something and clearly thought Man Utd were too good for a player like him. He didn’t look any worse a centre-half than Harry McGuire to me and I wouldn’t swap either of them for Dael Fry.

It seems commonplace these days for me to praise Chris Wilder in these posts and this one is no different. I’ve lost count of the times when a big Boro cup turnout has seen key players ‘rested’. Stevie Mac infuriated me at times in the UEFA Cup runs with his selections, although to be fair to him he generally got the results that he needed to overall. This was a full-strength selection from Wilder with the intention of giving it a real go against a Man Utd line-up that the fans around me reckoned was as strong as it could be from the players that they had available. It’s great when decisions like that pay off.

Middlesbrough v Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday 7th May 2016, 12:30pm

August 15, 2016

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Well, what do you know? We only went and did it.

A year on from that non-performance at Wembley a draw at home to Brighton in the last game of the season was enough to secure our return to the Premier League seven years after it slipped away that afternoon at West Ham.

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I’d bought tickets for the game as soon as I knew I was leaving Australia and long before the inevitable sell-out. Tom and I were in the South Stand, to the side of the goal nearest the Brighton fans.

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I’ve never been to a Boro game, or any game for that matter, where the support was so intense and where the singing was non-stop despite the tension of the occasion. It wasn’t like Eindhoven where most of us peaked too early and failed to play our part, or Wembley on just about any visit you can think of when it was either more about just being there or an early setback knocked us back. Or both.

It wasn’t like Cardiff where the team did their bit early on and then left us to bite our fingernails for almost an entire match. This was so different to any of those times. It was a crowd playing their part and providing the background for the lads on the pitch to get us over the line.

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If ever a lull in the noise threatened, a Red Faction-led chorus of “Follow, Follow, Follow” filled the potential void to the extent that the words were still resounding through my head days later. Even as the board was held up showing an additional eight minutes, the support never wavered.

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As we entered the final seconds I felt a few tears in my eyes. Sometimes it means more than you realise. I tend not to get emotional when it goes badly; I was able to put last season’s play-off defeat behind me before the game had finished and within an hour or two was already looking ahead to this season rather than dwelling upon what might have been in different circumstances. This was another matter altogether.

The whistle blew and Tom and I hugged. My thoughts went back to our last promotion eighteen years earlier. Tom and I had been in the West Stand for that one, me in my thirties rather than my fifties and him just eight years old and in serious danger of having someone’s eye out with his flag.

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I’ve enjoyed being in the Championship with trips to some of the so-called ‘less-fashionable’ grounds and in the last couple of years it was nice to win a few games.

But it’s good to be back. Back in the big time.

Middlesbrough v Blackburn Rovers, Saturday 6th February 2016, 3pm

May 29, 2016

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The home game against Blackburn was my first Boro game for a few months and for a change Tom and I sat in the South West corner. Thirty quid for a ticket would usually have struck me as expensive but as I’d been to see Peppa Pig with the grandkids that morning and with that costing fourteen quid for a three year old and sixteen quid for the accompanying adult, thirty quid for football seemed like a bargain.

I reckon adults should get in free to stuff like Peppa Pig, in the way that carers do with wheelchair fans at football. They do three shows a day, no doubt using aspiring Equity members on minimum wage. Somebody, somewhere is raking it in. Daddy Pig probably.  Still, the grandkids enjoyed it.

Earlier in the week Jen and I had done another thirty miles of the Cleveland Way, including the section with the Roseberry Topping detour in it. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve been up there but it’s always good to look down on Teesside from the top.

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Anyway, the game. We had a pint in The Central, but it was a bit crowded and with rain in the air we took a taxi up to the ground to do our pre-match drinking there. I was surprised to see that new signing Jordan Rhodes was only on the bench against his old club, but I suppose at least it meant that he wouldn’t be scoring against us.

We weren’t very good and it was only after Blackburn took the lead twenty minutes from the end that we showed any real intent to try to score. Rhodes came on and put himself about a bit, before Nugent equalised ten minutes from time.

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The draw took us level on points at the top with Hull.  I suppose with Burnley and Brighton still trailing us despite having played more games, it’s a good position to be in.

After the the successive defeats to Bristol City and Forest though, I can’t help feeling that we needed a win to get back on track.

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Tom and I hung about afterwards to watch Final Score before heading into town to catch the back end of the rugby in Dr Browns.