Boro's Late Great Show v Albion
By Robert Nichols
Sunday 26 Aug 2018 11:39:00
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It was another fantastic Friday for Boro as we defeated high flying WBA with an injury time winner from Daniel Ayala. The Boro always seem to revel in Friday night football and for the fans it has set up a brilliant Bank Holiday weekend to grin and gloat about a top match and above all a phenomenal result. Not even Leeds dismantling Norwich could take the smiles off our faces.

Daniel Ayala announced his return to the first team in scoring style. That chest down and left foot drive by the big centre back put the seal on an exceptional finish to the week. The win at Bristol City had been followed by the excitement and then disappointment surrounding Bolasie and Besic. But then the Bosnian midfielder finally put pen to paper on Thursday and all the transfer trauma was instantly a thing of the past. And with all those points in the bag and sitting pretty in second place we had so many reasons to be cheerful.

Jordan Hugill has battled to fitness far more quickly than was feared/expected. It was a great lift for everyone at the Riverside when along with the returnee Besic he made a late appearance off the bench on Friday. Looking forward, suddenly Pulis has many more options from the bench. Also, our winning performance before a tv audience will surely help make us a bigger draw as Tony Pulis seeks to strengthen his pack in the final week of the loan window.

But what of the game itself? It was certainly our biggest head to head of the season so far. West Brom are promotion favourites for many, including their former boss, Tony Pulis. A squad littered with Premier experience has been augmented by some shrewd signings from popular manager, Darren Moore. They had just hammered SEVEN past QPR but on Friday night it was Boro that played without fear and went straight for the Baggies from the off.

A changed formation saw Ayala come in with the unlucky Lewis Wing dropping out. Playing with three centre backs allowed the full backs to press forward with Stewy Downing putting his foot on the ball and sweeping the ball around from the midfield. Stewy also forced the best save of the first half after sprinting inside and cracking a real missile from his left foot, the ball was angling inside the angle of post and bar before being clawed away.

Everyone was working hard and pulling the visitors from side to side. Yet their defence held pretty firm. That was the only worry for Boro fans at half time, we had not been able to turn our dominance into goals. Two or three big chances had eluded our forwards. Maybe the best opportunities were from Braithwaite when he uncharacteristically blazed over and Ayala wasting a free header from a corner. The centre back was obviously just getting a sighter in.

West Brom were far more in the game after the break. A constant threat, Gayle and Rodriguez looked dangerous. An outnumbered Clayton managed to block a dual striker attack tearing down on goal. Randolph was forced into a couple of full length saves. There was the real worry we might be made to pay for missed chances.

Yet, long before the fourth official signalled for four minutes time added on Boro were back in the ascendancy. Besic showed his quick feet and even quicker brain. Hugill put himself about like the local lad so delighted to be playing for his home town club.

Then came the late free kick. Besic floated the ball into the middle and Ayala met it on the chest at the far post before pinging it with his left into the corner of the net. He finished like a centre forward. GETTTINGTHERE!!!

We were top of the league again, at least until Saturday tea time when Leeds did their stuff. Now we go to Leeds next Friday in what should be an amazing night. Something must give.

But first we have the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend to reflect on the win against the Baggies and just enjoy our superb start to the season. Just how significant will that injury time point at Millwall turn out to be. Papering over the cracks is what fans said afterwards. Yet clearly we now know that we are fitter than the rest. And with new players coming in we have a fantastic platform to work from to drop the anchors in this promotion position.

Come On Boro and Up The Boro

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