Boro Blown Away
By Robert Nichols
Sunday 16 Feb 2020 10:31:00
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Boro fell to a shocking defeat to relegation haunted Luton Town at the Riverside. One shot on target from both sides but only the visitors having a game plan that worked and players able to hold their nerve and counter deteriorating blustery conditions. As the final whistle blew those home fans left in their stadium were not happy after enduring one of the most hapless of performances. The pressure is on again and we have to handle it or we face real trouble.

The big news before kick off was the return to the starting line up of George Friend. Dael Fry, subbed near the end at Wigan, faces a month on the sidelines. We really have struggled to keep any of our defenders fit this season.

Oh and can I say Hats off, if they were not blown off by such a big travelling contingent travelling through the storm to support their team in their first ever visit to the Riverside.

The other news was that Storm Dennis was brewing, with wild winds whipping around the stadium keeping the ball on the floor was surely the order of the day. Not a good portent then that the early few minutes featured near head tennis and lots of lofted balls into the air.

Initially Boro settled the best and with wing backs Spence and Coulson whipping forward ahead of a back of three of Harold, Friend and Jonny Howson we had the visitors firmly on the back foot. It was well against the run of play when a Luton break wasn't fully dealt with and though the centre evaded both the forward and Boro defence, Ryan Tunnicliffe arrived at the back post to tuck the ball into the net.

That finish was to be just about the most controlled piece of play all day. Although for Luton Kazenga Lua Lua was a constant thorn in our side with his power play. At times he did skate on thin ice with his powerful over reactions.

Boro's twin strikers Fletcher and Nmencha were starved of the ball as Luton fell into a disciplined shape to stop us playing, particularly down the flanks. In saying that Fletcher like other Boro players looked increasingly anxious on the ball why Nmencha looked a young player and was all too easily brushed aside. Until he was switched wide left second half where he made for the first time he made a positive impact.

Lewis Wing appeared to be the only player keeping the ball on the deck. Sadly though he could not get a shooting chance. Harold Moukoudi was one of the guilty parties as players hit passes that were caught on gusts of wind and blown well beyond their targets. That went for crosses as well. The game was littered with decent crossing opportunities ruined by players hitting the ball too high into the air for the wind to whip the it away.

The only exception was Hayden Coulson, too hot for Luton to handle whether coming from left or right and providing an end product, crying out to be converted.

As the game rolled on our anxiety only increased. There were no driving runs from Paddy McNair who has not looked comfortable since returning to midfield. When Fletcher broke away he couldn't feed in Coulson. Nmecha fluffed a simple return pass to Coulson as the box opened out for him.

Then with a final fling of the dice Woodgate loaded the forwards with first Britt and then Gestede coming on. Sadly removing Saville removed the only player able to tackle back to get the ball. Also in the formation switches Coulson was pinned to a more defensive role. Now the visitors managed the game by keeping possession and Boro were chasing the shadows. Fast moving shadows in the wind.

A really frustrating game, heightened by Luton's tactics of time wasting. Tactics not fully punished by 6 minutes time added on that might have been arrived at by lengthy injury treatment to Hatters players.

If Boro failed to deal with the pressure v Luton they will not know what will hit them at Barnsley, the bottom club suddenly threatening a Lazarus comeback after beating promotion chasing 3-0 at Craven Cottage. With several thousand pint-primed Boro fans in the stand next to the tunnel there will be no hiding place at Oakwell. We simply must respond. Barnsley has not been a kind place for Boro players or managers that under perform.

Boro 0-1 Luton Town – Very Poor

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