Traore Terrific Outshines Brittle Britt Blunder
By Robert Nichols
Sunday 11 Feb 2018 11:33:00
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Minutes into the second half and two nil up thanks to stunning goals, both of them from Adama Traore, the headline might have been Boro Royal Victory or Royals Flushed. Then came a farcical finale that almost made it That Takes The Biscuit. Boro sat back and invited Reading back into the game before squandering a penalty in the most amazing of circumstances. In the end we did hold out for that 2-1 win. So, we are up and running now under Tony Pulis at home in the Championship and clawing back points on those directly above us in the table.

Yes, in the cold light of day after the afternoon before, Boro have 3 more points and the home record is registering again, for the first time under Tony Pulis. How we got there or rather how we almost threw it away will you suspect soon be forgotten as Boro have something to build on now away at Cardiff and Sunderland. Maybe it is an opportunity to close that gap to the play offs, if we play our cards right.

The best card in our pack has to be Adama Traore who suddenly has more end product than the rest of the team put together. He is starting to realise the potential that makes him quite simply one of the most exciting footballers that many of us have ever had the pleasure of watching through our football lifetimes.

Yesterday those powerful, express paced runs were capped off with thunderbolt shots, one either side of half time. Absolutely thrilling. Long after the dust has settled on Britt’s penalty howler and all has been forgotten and hopefully forgiven, the memory of Traore’s first ever home goals will live on in the Middlesbrough memory banks.

The team formerly known as the Biscuit Men are a bit of a shambles these days. They get the bird at home and travel away to avoid the boos, where they have a tiny support. Amongst the number though was a dedicated fan, one James McGhee, a popular stalwart of Billingham Marsh House Harrier. James or Jimmy as he is to his many, many friends, is actually a season ticket holder at the Madejski Stadium and follows the Royals home and away from Billingham every week. On public transport! Imagine the logistics! Yesterday he was joined at the Riverside by many friends and family from both Teesside and Reading as they toasted the life of Jimmy’s son, Jon, “brainwashed” into the Reading cause by his dad. Jon died tragically early not long before Christmas. There was a moving dedication in the matchday programme. Best wishes Jimmy.

Yesterday was very much a community day. Fans and club came together to raise food for Middlesbrough Food Bank and the areas hospices. Middlesbrough Supporters Forum (www.boro.support) organised and publicised a matchday appeal for the local foodbank and the response was incredible. The Official Supporters Club actually filled a hatch back. Fans and Boro staff brought shopping bags, many bought en route and by 3pm the Food Bank van was completely full. Great effort from everyone.

food bank

For a one-off match the Boro team were dressed in shirts emblazoned with the names of the two hospices, Butterwick and Teesside Hospice. This will have raised so much awareness and hopefully those match shirts can now have a value that can be realised by Boro fans for the hospice. Also, I have never seen or heard the kerchink of as much money donated in the tins being rattled around the ground by the many volunteers collecting for the hospices. Incredible efforts from everyone. The Riverside was right at the heart of the community yesterday.

hospice care

Boro picked up from where they left off at the last home match v Sheff Wed, dominating play but not converting that possession into goals. In fact, we also picked up from where we started away at Norwich with Rudy Gestede, red card (rightfully) rescinded playing as centre forward. Rudy did not shy away from getting stuck in.

The only change from the team starting against Norwich was the reintroduction of Jonny Howson for Adam Clayton and Howson was absolutely everywhere, performances like that are really endearing him to the Boro fans.

Boro pushed on for goal but initially were struggling to create too much, even when Reading defenders gave us gifts by passing back blind. The visitors actually missed a good opportunity from under the posts before Gestede headed down and Downing fired inches wide.

Then right on half time Traore lit up the stadium when he cut in from the right and lashed a shot that carved though Vito Mannone and into the back of the net. Gettiiinnnnthere! 1-0. Traore first ever home goal.

So, at long last the Boro had scored again at home. What a relief. But barely had the second half started before Boro and Traore doubled it. Adama Traore went on a charge down right flank, with team mates running inside him towards the box the winger instead unleashed an absolute cannonball that howled past Mannone into the net. Wow. What a finish.

In the immediate aftermath Reading were all at sea unable to cope with Traore who was running past defenders as if they were not there. Boro threatened to inflict a landslide defeat. A wonderful deft chip by Traore found Bamford on the edge of the box and the forward shot inches wide.

Bamford would soon be removed for Clayton. But Boro kept up the pressure, Traore was hauled down for a free kick. Grant Leadbitter was desperately unlucky to see a clever free kick routine finish with his strike bouncing back off the foot of the North Stand post.

Maybe it was the substitution or perhaps it was just nerves and the old dangerous 2-goal cushion creeping in as Boro started to sit deeper and deeper. There was an awful long time left to defend that lead. Tony Pulis was waving players forwards at times but we nevertheless we started to invite pressure from the visitors. When the experienced and much travelled, new arrival Chris Martin found the corner of the net for 2-1 Boro were in panic stations.

Britt Assombalonga came on for Gestede but was looking isolated without Bamford and a withdrawn Traore. But then came a chance to wipe away all the nerves. Traore cut inside and was tripped in the box, penalty. Britt, picked up the ball but Leadbitter the designated penalty taker and skipper ran across to take the spot kick. Maybe it was Pulis “man up” jibes towards Britt that made him cling on to the ball and persuade captain Grant to give him the opportunity to bury his long goal drought. Ryan Shotton was pulled away by Ben Gibson from getting involved in the discussion.

What followed of course was a disaster for Britt and Boro. The centre forward who remember has already scored from the spot this season stepped up but stuttered in his run waiting for Mannone to commit, then having lost momentum he pulled his leg and his head back and shot horribly high and wide. A spot kick in the Chrissy Waddle class of “pelanty” misses.

The Boro crowd were not happy, incensed you might say. You could see why Britt had over ruled captain’s orders but his actions had certainly rebounded on him. No true grit from Britt. But would they rebound on Boro, now defending a slender lead?

Boro now had to hang on and that meant defending corners. Nerves were frayed around the Riverside where only minutes earlier we were absolutely coasting it. Then Traore broke away powering through the Reading defences. Waving aside his own personal ambitions for a hat trick he unselfishly tried to pass to Britt for his hat trick but the centre forward was off side.

Fortunately Reading could not find another goal as Boro boxed it up further adding new signing Martin Cranie to the defence. What a wave of relief around the Riverside as the final whistle sounded.

A first precious home league victory for Tony Pulis and with others losing above us a 3 point haul that pulled us back into the play off picture. The Britt penalty fiasco dampened and darkened the mood after the game but hopefully as the weekend kicks in the significance of the result and the brilliance of Traore will be the dominant thoughts in everyone’s mind.

A day when the community came out on top down by the Riverside. And oh what fun it is to see the Boro win.. at home.

Middlesbrough 2-1 Reading – Traore (2)

 



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