Boro Crash to Sheff United
By Robert Nichols
Thursday 14 Feb 2019 12:27:00
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For the second season in a row Boro found Sheff United too hot to handle on their own patch. Although we had the better of the first half and made some early chances in the second, the home side steam rollered us for much of the time after the break. They took the lead from a set-piece and then further turned the screw. Following the red card for Ayala, Sheff U froze Boro out of the game and we crashed to a costly defeat. There is real pressure now surrounding Sunday's game at Blackburn but what kind of a defence will Boro be able to field?

Last season Boro were swept aside in a stormy first half at Bramall Lane when Sheff U scored with the first attack. At least this time Darren Randolph got down low to divert a first minute deflected shot wide of the post. It was the second half that we leaked a critical goal. But the first half red card for Leadbitter last season was duplicated by Ayala, this term after half time.

Boro actually looked good before the break. The battling Jordan Hugill forced a good save from a shot on target after dragging an earlier effort wide. Mikel looked the outstanding player on show, calmly commanding the midfield.

Yet there was one black mark for Boro. Aden Flint was forced off injured and that may prove very costly for the weekend with Ayala suspended. If it is a recurrence of his previous injury will be the big centre back be out longer term? We will miss his presence and no longer having the able deputy in Danny Batth.

We briefly flourished after the restart, George Friend had a header cleared off the line and in the follow up sub Stewart Downing's shot was too hot for the keeper. The United stopper did just enough to divert it away from Hugill.

But from then on Sheff U cranked it up. Their big crowd got behind them as they took over the midfield and looked to storm our barricades. A disallowed goal was only brief respite before substitute Richard Stearman headed home from close range.

Boro were now picking up bookings as desperation took hold trying to stem the one way traffic. With the crowd baying for blood, Daniel Ayala picked up two cautions flying in for last ditch fouls, almost two in two minutes and so he had to walk.

Boro reorganised but were always up against it with the ten men against eleven. First Britt Assombolonga and then Van La Parra came on but we just couldn't get the ball to feed them. Britt did have one chance but he hit straight at the keeper. After that he never saw the ball again as Sheff U cleverly played on their one man advantage and Boro failed completely to create anything.

A bitterly disappointing evening then and Middlesbrough have only just held onto a play off position on goal difference. Obviously there is a long way to go still but we could do with a big, big performance on Sunday. Yet with a much-depleted defence and against Tony Mowbray's more than useful Blackburn Rovers that is not going to be easy.

A bad night for Boro.



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