NSM and friends' report from Middlesbrough
21st September 2013, 3pm
A clear and easy drive up got us into Middlesbrough in plenty of time to have a look around, not that there's a huge amount to see mind, and get our bearings. A stroll into town gave the chance to sample some of the dirt cheap drink on offer, before getting back to the ground to see the players just completing their warm ups.
The team came through and it turned out neither Daniels or MacDonald started, the knocks they picked up Tuesday were obviously too much to recover from in the short time.
Elphick came into the middle of defence with Cook moved to the left, and Richard Hughes lined up in the middle alongside O'Kane. Pitman was playing deep behind Rantie, whilst Grabban was seemingly allowed to roam, sometimes popping up on the right and sometimes centrally. Pugh on the left.
With the first Cherries attack of the game just a few minutes in, we had a penalty. It was clear that Rantie fancied a run at the Boro back line, he would go on to cause problems throughout his hour. It was a clear trip by defender Williams on the South African that won the spot kick. Pitman smashed it down the middle for 1-0. A few late stragglers missed out there.
With Grabban and Rantie up top, the ball into the channel to get them racing against the defenders was clearly the way forward. Pitman was popping up here and there behind, and it was a Pitman ball into the box towards Grabban that won the second spot kick. The ball striking the arm of defender Frazer Richardson. Pitman stepped up and smacked it higher this time, to the keepers' right for 2-0.
Middlesbrough were shell-shocked, Bournemouth were jubilant. Elliott Ward went close from a corner, and all seemed to be going perfectly until 20 minutes, when Boro got one back with a rather scrappy goal. A cross into our box wasn't dealt with well at all, the scorer Kamara toe-poking the loose ball towards goal before finally bundling it into the net via both Allsop and Cook. The previously silent home fans suddenly found their voices and drums, and the pressure came on.
At this point, something changed. It was as if we thought, 'hang on, we're little Bournemouth, leading away at Middlesbrough, recently a top flight club' - we forgot that we deserved to be at that stage and be ahead, and we went right into our shell. Our high tempo and high pressing went out the window as we retreated into our own half, and Middlesbrough pilled on the pressure with all the space of their nice big ground to play in.
The equaliser when it came was somewhat fortuitous perhaps, but it was certainly coming. A cross come shot from some 25 yards deflected off Steve Cook and looped into the net, Allsop having no chance.
After half time little changed. We hoped Eddie would have shaken some sense into the players to get back that aggression from early on. But we continued to stay deep and Middlesbrough continued to do almost all the running. Bar the occasional break away with Grabban and Rantie, it was only Middlesbrough who were going to score again.
The hour mark ticked past with the Cherries just about keeping Boro at bay, but it couldn't last forever. Firstly there was the rather confusing substitution of Rantie for Thomas. We can only assume perhaps Rantie isn't quite fully adjusted yet and needs to be treated carefully. The introduction of Thomas didn't inspire a huge amount of confidence, but there were bigger problems to come.
With around 20 minutes left Boro's main man in midfield Leadbitter got into the box and into space to receive a cut back pass into his path, and tucked the ball away for a 3-2 lead, sending the 13,000 home fans crazy.
Howe immediately sent MacDonald on for Hughes. Whether it was that change, or the realisation that we had fallen behind after leading 2-0, but we suddenly came to life again.
Pugh started finding space on the left, and Francis started bombing down the right, both sending crosses into Thomas. We forced some corners and generally applied some pressure, and it didn't take much before Boro cracked. Jonathon Woodgate quite strangely bundled the ball into his own net to equalise for Bournemouth, and it was our turn to party as the home fans fell back into their sulk. Cherries players ran to the away section celebrating and they were met by a fair number rushing down the stand, much to the stewards annoyance.
And we kept pressing, and could have gone onto win. A ball down the middle for Thomas to chase saw him get the better of defender Williams, he who gave us a penalty earlier, and he completed his poor afternoon by bring Thomas down whilst through on goal. As the last defender, it was a red card and off he went. Pitman had a shot from the resulting free kick, that didn't look far wide of the bottom corner.
A chaotic end to end stoppage time saw both sides throw themselves at a winner but 3-3 it ended, with Howe no doubt going away the happier manager whilst Mowbray took stick from the home fans.
All in all, a patchy but at times rather good performance against a Middlesbrough side comfortable on the ball and possessing some quality in places. As a yard stick to see where we are at this level, that wasn't bad.
We do just need to remember that we earned our place at this level alongside some admittedly bigger clubs, but we're lining up against them as equals and we're capable of doing them as much damage as they are us. A little less respect shown, or a little less fear perhaps, and we could have done even better.
Boro fans weren't overly happy leaving the ground and a minority made their feelings known towards Cherries in slightly unsavoury ways as we made our way back. But hopefully that's a sign that we gave a decent away performance and were good value for the point.
Report by northstandmark
Can't really understand why we stopped playing high tempo football. It was almost like we went to protect the lead from about 15 minutes in.
With our formation today there was a great hole around the half way line with Hughes and O'Kane playing deep with Francis wide right and Pugh playing wide left with Pitman more forward than back and the inevitable happened. For a large chunk of the game we let Boro dictate proceedings.
The Boro first goal came from one hell of a cross from their left full back that we couldn't deal with and from the messy scramble we conceded a toe poke. The second was a strike from outside the box that took a wicked deflection off Cook and their third which had been coming, came after Pitman casually gave the ball away in the centre circle and they cut through us a la Huddersfield and Watford.
Bizarrely no substitute had warmed up at all until we had conceded the third goal and after that thankfully it was MacDonald who came on and gave some well needed energy and strength to our mid-field. How we missed Arter's terrier like contribution and before MacDonald came on someone to put their foot in higher up mid-field and not inviting the opposition to run at us and then get brushed off the ball.
All credit to the lads for not giving up and in the end we were thankful for Ward doing a jinking run along the bi-line into their penalty area and committing Woodgate to concede an own goal.
We had got out of jail when I would suggest a team like Watford would have gone for the jugular and would have won at a canter.
At times we were shocking with slip shod passing and giving the ball away. I'm not sure Rantie, Pitman and Grabban in the same team is going to work. Surprisingly Grabban, our main goal scorer in open play this season was wide right to start with when Thomas came on. We certainly needed Ryan Fraser to terrorise the opposition because Pugh had another off day.
Eddie and Jason will need to study the video because for 60 minutes that wasn't an excellent performance.
It was a streaky performance from the referee as well. Whilst he was correct with both penalties and the sending off he made some bizarre decisions at times against both sides especially the interpretation of advantage and fouls that went unpunished although it wasn't a dirty game.
There was one incident near the end when Grabban was taken out on a run and we lost the advantage, the ball was then cleared for a throw with Grabban still down and he booked their player but never brought play back for the foul.
Another was the booking of Allsop late on. Our keeper had been legally taking his time at times through most of the second half but Ward ushered the ball out for a goal kick about 20 feet to the right of our goal, left the ball where it finished up, Allsop walked over to pick it up and got booked for time wasting!
I don`t want to sound too negative, though - I can`t fault the commitment of the players and let`s face it, we`d probably all have taken a point beforehand & it says something that we`re slightly disappointed we didn`t actually win up there.
Anyway, NSM & P49 have summed the game up so well, there`s nothing more I can add, so I`ll talk a bit about the away day itself…
The supporters` coach left DC at 7am and I was convinced that was too late, but following a 30 min (revolutionary - it`s normally 40-45mins!) stop at Warwick services at from 9.15-9.45 we kept going without stopping again & arrived in good time at 1.15pm, following an excellent run on reasonably clear roads. Those of us looking for a pre-match pub headed off to Doctor Browns, as recommended by the football ground guide ( http://www.footballgroundguide.com/middlesbrough/ ) which turned out to be an excellent choice. It wasn`t too busy, you could get served quite easily and we had some great banter with the locals. They asked us which of our players to watch out for & we gave them a lengthy description of the wee man Frazer, who, err, didn`t even feature.
We then had a discussion about what M`bro is famous for, and the locals described something I`d never heard of, namely a 'parmo`. It turns out this is chicken in breadcrumbs, deep fried then topped with béchamel sauce and grated cheddar, before being grilled to melt the cheese. It comes with chips & was described as a 2500 calorie 'heart attack on a plate`, which I have to say sounds about right. Apparently 'parmo` is short for parmesan, but they use cheddar instead… More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmo Inevitably, I tried to buy one in the takeaway opposite the pub on the walk to the game, but (perhaps thankfully) they didn`t do it. They were offering roast potatoes in gravy, though - another takeaway first for me, and very nice they were too.
This was my first time at the Riverside, and, to be honest, if you`ve been to St Mary`s or the Madejski, etc, well - it`s like that. Nice stadium, absolutely nothing wrong with it, great viewing and so on, but just a bit lacking in character. The attendance was something like 13,600 I think, which would`ve obviously packed out & created a cracking atmosphere at DC, but that number of people dissipated in a stadium of that size made their place feel rather empty. I`m not sure how many Bmth fans were there, but I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, noise-wise - how did it sound on Solent?
So, all in all, another great away day! Can`t say I enjoyed all those hours on the bus, but we got a point & there was good company/fun/beer/banter in the process, which is all part of it - what`s not to like?