Boro Up and Running
By Rob Nichols
Wednesday 21 Aug 2019 11:21:00
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Phew! It may not have been pretty but finally Jonathan Woodgate's Boro recorded a first win under the new regime. Britt Assombalonga's headed conversion of Jonny Howson's cross was a fitting goal to win any match. Mind you, there were lots of hearts in mouths moments before we could finally celebrate the three points. But we are off now and up and running, so lets see where it can take us.

It was a tense and error strewn opening half hour for as we all knew only too well that the pressure was growing on a team that had not yet won in the league. Or cup. We were probably fortunate in facing opponents that have struggled to score and not won themselves since the season opener. Wigan spurned several early game gifts as Boro players dwelt on the ball or else passed straight to their opponents. The best keeper in the Championship, Darren Randolph, was called into action several times to save the blushes of his error strewn outfield team mates.

Another old hand with a cool head is Jonny Howson, currently making a real fist of it at right back and playing as if he had run that flank all his career. His surging run and spot on back post cross opened up the Latics. But it takes two to tango for a goal and Britt Assombalonga timed his own goalrush run to perfection before finishing with a missile of a header, straight into the back of the net. What a moment. Great goal.

Britt looked full of confidence, a drop of the shoulder and he was off spinning past defenders and forcing the keeper into a save. One Britt shot was palmed away but into the path of Paddy McNair who was defeated by the angle and lashed into the side netting.

McNair was another Boro player performing well, adding urgency and turning midfield into attack. Switching from one side of the pitch to another, Ashley Fletcher continues to be full of invention and application. He now has the confidence to take on opponents and surge past them and then look for the pass or shot. We need to ensure we get Fletcher on the ball more often in all the right areas.

One player not so full of confidence was the winger he was switching with. Marcus Browne let his frustration spill over with a series of petulant fouls, continuing even after he had been booked. It was sensible management to replace Browne (for Johnson) at half time. But we have seen enough glimpses to know that when he comes good and finds his feet at this level Browne will be an asset, we all need to be patient for the moment, not least the player himself.

There were a couple of occasions in this game where Britt ought to have passed to Fletcher or McNair both in more dangerous, advanced positions but I guess you want your centre forward to be greedy for goals. Boro need their top goalscorer finding net the regularly. Britt goals bring points and victories and settles everyone's nerves.

Boro did play a lot better and more fluently after the break especially following Woodgate's mid-half tactical switch. Saville replaced Bola, Boro playing three at the back in McNair, Ayala and Shotton and beefed up the midfield with Howson, Clayton and Saville all fighting to cut out Wigan inroads as well as acting as a springboard to Boro's pressing game.

Having made three substitutions the last thing Wigan wanted to see was their big, combative forward, Kieffer Moore, limping off and reducing them to 10 men. Despite this handicap they still made us suffer, in a nail biting injury time by pegging us back and pushing everyone forward for a succession of free kicks and corners, some being very dubious awards. The officials had somehow missed several glaring Wigan handballs and had a very different take to the majority of the 18000 crowd (a figure buoyed up by may, many of missing season card holders) on lots of decisions.

Wigan had followed Blackburn's example in trying to beat us at our own game in pressing our defenders into errors and cutting down the time and space they had to operate in. But in the mid second half the changed formation allowed us to stretch a Wigan team desperately chasing the game. Not that this is anyway to have a go at Bola who made a very competent home league debut start at left back. Boro have plenty of options at that position.

Our options are far more limited in other areas of the pitch and we are very reliant on certain key players performing well. But hopefully this 3 points achieved in a game of two struggling sides can help us settle in. Saturday's game against Millwall will not be easy but if we could win a second game in a week then last week's disasters could be consigned to history.

This is a project that will take time. At the moment we look well down on the team that came close to play offs last term and even further back from the Pulis side that was swept aside by Villa in the play offs the season before. But we have a start now and hopefully something to build on.

Onwards and upwards. Come on Boro.



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