Boro Pay Penalty v Fulham
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 14 Jan 2018 10:52:00
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Tony Pulis is still searching for his first home league victory after Fulham rocked us back inflicting a 1-0 injury time defeat at the Riverside on Saturday. There was a great deal of controversy in that win by the fast-improving Londoners. A last gasp penalty had more than a hint of a dive about it and earlier in the half Martin Braithwaite was pushed to the ground in the penalty area by Tomas Kalas.

There were loud boos around the Riverside as the referee exited the scene of the crime. I had not realised just how blatant the push on Braithwaite was on Kalas from my seat in the North Stand as the Boro forward had his back to me. Nor could I appreciate whether Grant Leadbitter had followed through with his tackle or attempted to pull out of the challenge at the far end of the ground. Afterwards watching on Channel 5 I would have to agree with the commentators and not Mickey Gray in that it looked like a case of Oliver Norwood throwing himself over Leadbitter’s foot, or where he felt Leadbitter’s foot should have been.

Obviously Boro should have been out of sight in the first period when Rudy Gestede missed two golden opportunities to give us a lead. His second miss saw him break away and draw the keeper but somehow place the ball wide of the post as well as the Fulham stopper. Last week he was deadly from that range. Not so when it mattered in the league. Mind you, people lambasting his selection should remember that Rudy Gestede scored well against Sunderland and helped turn the game at Preston with a phenomenal display as a target man in the second period. He was picked on merit.

But Boro could also have wrapped up the points seconds before the controversial penalty. With both teams pushing for a win, sub Adam Clayton played through the perfect through ball and fellow substitute, Britt Assombalonga chipped the keeper. It looked to be the perfect lob but came back off the cross bar and the forward couldn’t react quickly enough to put away the follow up.

In the first half Boro seemed to have their tactics spot on. Adama Traore was man-marking Fulham’s danger man Sessegnon and making him look silly by racing past again and again. Boro failed to capitalise on that dominance and a series of corners that had Fulham clinging on.

Our shooting was off target yesterday, Stewart Downing was well out of range with two efforts, Howson pulled a shot wide of the post and the lively Martin Braithwaite twice hit side netting from close in.

Yes, on another day Boro would have been well in front before Fulham clawed their way back after the break. Their boss, Jokanovic, made some clever tactical switches after the break. He changed players down the flanks, including pushing Sessegnon forward. One of these changes meant Boro fans were given an opportunity to applaud former player, Tomas Kalas. We wouldn’t have been clapping him if he had shot on target instead of the side-netting when a slip in the Boro defence left him in on goal.

Tony Pulis countered these Fulham moves by switching and subbing players. But in truth there were tired legs in red shirts after the break. Traore looked burned out and Gestede and Braithwaite were continuing to spurn opportunities.

Still, if a penalty had been awarded for the clear foul on Braithwaite the outcome of the game may have been very different. Or Assombalomba had lobbed a few inches lower. But it seemed so cruel to go straight from hitting the bar to conceding a spot kick and a goal, in the blink of an eye.

So, Fulham leap frog over Boro in the table and we have once again paid the price for missing chances. This was their first win at the Riverside in decades, ironically it would have been more deserved for their dominance at Craven Cottage earlier this season.

It will be interesting to see how Tony Pulis reacts for the away game next week at Loftus Road. Not for the first time this season we need an immediate reaction. Time is ticking now and we still need to find that consistency.

The positive was we looked quite dynamic in that first period. It was a joy to watch and torture for the visitors. Traore made Fulham look stupid at times. We have said it so often before but we have to take our chances when on top like that. And we could do without officials missing clear penalties in our favour and giving dubious injury time decisions against us.

Come On Boro

Middlesbrough 0-1 Fulham


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