Wednesday Make it Saturday Disaster for Woodgate's Boro
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 29 Sep 2019 11:23:00
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Mid way through the first half I glanced up at the big screen, yes we were 4-1 down and there was still a long, long way to go. On every Wednesday raid forward Boro's defence was peeled apart and Darren Randolph brutally exposed to a shot, or all too often a header that left him powerless. It felt like being a Watford fan watching Man City run riot. Just how bad could this get?

Jonathan Woodgate's Boro were completely undone and blown away in an early bird blitz at home to a rampant Sheff Wed. It made it all the more galling that it was sacked Boro boss, Garry Monk, in charge of the visitors now putting us to the sword. There was a sell out 2 and a half thousand fans packed in to the away end. Did they smell blood in advance? Could they sense the vulnerabilities in our paper thin squad? Did they feel we were there for the taking?

To lose one match to a second minute near post own goal header is careless but to score an early own goal from a corner once again is quite unbelievable. Ever since pre season we have looked exceptionally vulnerable at set-pieces, something that would be clearly evident this weekend. Even away at Salford the Britt hat-trick glossed over a free header from a corner that gift-wrapped Salford an early lead.

Adam Clayton joined Ashley Fletcher in the list of own goals by glancing in from ahead of the front post. It was the kind of finish that Britt Assombalonga would have given his back teeth for in a second half marked out his two misses from even closer in to goal. To his credit Clayton immediately rallied himself and his team mates but all too soon things were to go from bad to worse.

Woodgate had recalled young left back Bola and gave a vote of confidence in Shotton and Fry at centre back, leaving the experienced Ayala on the bench. How we would quickly come to rue that decision. Barely a minute after that own goal our defences were split asunder again when Dominic Iorfa was braver and much more determined than his markers flinging himself into a full length diving header to leave Randolph with no chance.

Boro were absolutely reeling but credit where credit is due – and that credit would all too quickly be snuffed out – we started to rally and show plenty of attacking intent led by the man that eventually split the difference. Paddy McNair blasted home on the half volley from a corner and suddenly it was game on, we were on a mission. If only we could keep the doors closed at the back.

Yet all hope was almost immediately extinguished. A rattled Clayton allowed Adam Reach to dispossess him from a Boro throw-in. The former Boro player drifted inside, rounded our defence before curling a delightful finish around Randolph for 3-1. From the moment Reach intercepted, the goal had an inevitability about it. He is a class act. He always scores against Boro. While you cannot get bitter forever about the ones that got away Reach should never have left us, he is Premier class and that is where he will finish up playing. Will it be with Wednesday?

The Owls were now cutting through us in midfield too. Boro heads dropped. But the final goal emphasised what it was all about, boys against men, as the wily old Steve Fletcher was far too powerful for Dael Fry, pinning the Boro youngster at the back post to head into the net. 4-1 after only 34 minutes.

Many left for the sanctuary of the bar, driven to drink. Some fans never returned. There was a steady exodus through the second half as Boro huffed and puffed to put some respectability back into the scoreline. Britt had two golden chances but scuffed his lines both times. Sub Marcus Browne made an impact and a difference for Boro. How many bookings did he draw from the visitors as they stopped his runs on goal by cutting him down? Yet it is a very small positive to take from the game, in a sea of negativity.

Boro were blown away by a team that out-muscled and out-manoeuvred us. Lennie Lawrence would have called our defending naïve. That was so clear to see. So, it didn't matter what the forwards produced we were always likely to let in four times as many goals at the back. It does not help when your centre forward misses two sitters but we were already down and almost certainly out by then. If Britt had scored as he should have done early in the second it might have given us a glimmer, especially with Ayala restored to centre back and Shotton making an impact at left wing back behind Browne. But they would probably have scored another two before Britt rounded the keeper and hit the side-netting.

It was a terrible blast to our confidence. Is it a reality check? Those four games unbeaten now seem a long time ago. And on Tuesday we face high-flying Preston. A worrying prospect. Woodgate is going to need to engineer a near-miraculous turnaround in fortunes if the team is to bounce back and fill fans with a little hope again for the season. Preston is quickly followed by a tricky away trip to Birmingham. The match has been brought forward to Friday and will come all too soon for us.

This week is going to be a quite massive managerial test for Woodgate's rookie management credentials. Along with his backroom team they need to rapidly put a plan in place. They need to get the players to dig deep and play with courage and conviction. They need to find a way to thwart Preston and they need a route back from the pit of despair that we stared into at 4-1 down, with nearly an hour left of football to endure on Saturday.

Come On Boro



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