Boro Blast Back Through True Britt
By Robert Nichols
Wednesday 24 Jul 2019 10:25:00
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Hat trick hero Britt blasted Boro back from an early deficit to a 3-1 win away at new EFL side Salford City. It was an evening in which young left back Hayden Coulson really impressed. Indeed there were plenty of plus points as Boro bounced back from a hammering in Heidenheim. Next step St Etienne at the Riverside and hopefully we can continue to build from here.

With only one pre season friendly remaining after last night it was important for Boro to gain some confidence after shipping so many goals away in Germany. An early defensive slip up from a corner seemed to raise those doubts all over again but we swept back to boss the game. The clinical nature of Britt Assombalonga's three finishes were big pluses.

Salford's smart little red Peninsula Stadium sits high up in the leafy suburbs and a big travelling army were there very early to soak up the sunshine and the refreshments, to a Madchester play list. Boro brought back Adam Clayton to grind out the midfield and allow Lewis Wing the space to pick off Salford with a range of forward passes. Further forward Paddy McNair buzzed around the three man attack of Marvin Johnson, Ashley Fletcher and back from international duty, Britt Assombalonga. Fresh from his first international goal for DS Congo Britt looked sharp and determined from the off and a real spearhead for the ever lively attackers. But it was at the back where Boro again posted worries.

Lots of fannying about by our defenders presented early gifts to Salford forwards. Then from a corner we failed to pick up players or indeed the goal posts and Aynsley Pears could do nothing as Salford converted at the back post.

The young keeper was livid and quite rightly. But good to see he had the gumption to have a real go at Shotton, Ayala and the rest. It was very sloppy and Aynsley son of Stephen played so well over the night he didn't really deserve the blemish on his record. He punched with power and distance, was out quickly to the edge of his box to lap up danger. There were several excellent saves and his distribution from throw outs was speedy and accurate. Later on Pears made a towering catch in the middle and the whole while showed a maturity far beyond his years.

Howson was kicking forward from right wing back but not always accurate with his passing early on. He persisted though and is started to click later. At left back Hayden Coulson continued where he left off in his other appearances this pre season. He beavers away inside or outside going forward, jinking his way past defenders or putting his foot down to surge with pace. He is not afraid to shoot but can lift his head up to pick a pass or centre. Despite his wiry frame Coulson is steely in the tackle at the back also.

Boro's reply from Salford's corner goal came after a great run and cross from another man posting his intent this summer. Marvin Johnson, a forgotten man, has started to remind everyone that he could yet have an answer to our width problem. Johnson was a thorn in Salford's side all match long. Time and again he was the target for Lewis Wing's long balls as he raced clear down the right, with Fletcher offering the same width on the left. Although Johnson didn't always pack a punch with his shooting his cross for Boro's opener was certainly on the mark and Britt popped up at the back post to head home.

The second goal was a little farcical in the build up but there was no doubting the quality of the finish. There was a lot of discussion about a drop ball after play was stopped for a Salford head injury. In the end Lewis Wing seemed irritated by the indecision and snapped the ball wide. Howson fed McNair who centred and Britt volleyed unstoppably into the net. Wow.

The result was clinched in the second period after Coulson took the applause for nutmegging his opponent. Instead of basking in the glory of the moment he got on his bike, fired his way forward and somehow bent his way past the defender before crossing for Britt to once again attempt to take the roof of the net off with a first time volley. Quite superb by Coulson and a first ever Boro hat trick for Britt.

Assombalonga was subbed for Tav the only Boro change as our coaching staff obviously wanted to test this formation through 90 minutes. We were now looking a far better unit after that nervy, uncertain start. The ball was moved forward quickly and although the three goals all came from crosses, time and again we cut the ball back into the middle where midfielders as well as forwards queued up to take shots. That was really good to see.

It was an enjoyable, entertaining game. Plenty of good players in the Salford ranks, who unlike Boro rotated often. For Boro Pears impressed, Coulson looks primed and ready to step forward. Wing and Clayton combine well. The little pre match drills with Clayton in the middle as the terrier trying to snap back the ball and short pass it were not for show alone.

It was another valuable 90 minutes for Daniel Ayala. He and Shotton will welcome that. They looked far more settled second half. Howson seems to be the right wing back for the moment. Where will captain Friend fit in?

Saville could perhaps come into contention for the advanced role of McNair. Perhaps Marvin Johnson will have a role this season and Fletcher's quick feet and movement on and off the ball left pockets of space for a sharp Britt to exploit. Although this was obviously only a friendly game I have never seen Britt look that deadly before, three first time finishes capped a fine all round display.

An enjoyable evening in the sun for Boro fans as well as new League tick for the groundhoppers. But I didn't spot any Nevilles, Scholes, Butt or even a Beckham. Never mind there was Britt blasting a hat trick and Coulson surging round the outside. Enough for any Boro fan.

Salford City 1-3 Boro – Britt (3)

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