Crushing Lockdown Defeat from Swans
By Robert Nichols
Monday 22 Jun 2020 09:27:00
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Boro began their relegation fight with a crushing 3-0 home defeat by the travelling Swans. A lockdown home-based audience could not believe their eyes as Steve Cooper's Swansea side ran riot in the first half. The side from South Wales shattered the home defences and also the confidence that we can stay ahead above the relegation places.

It was three goals but could so easily have been many more as we were saved by the woodwork on more than one occasion. Jonathan Woodgate had stressed that we had to start quickly but instead we went sleep walking into the first game and looked every bit as second best as the horror show scoreline suggests. Maybe it was just as well there were no fans allowed in the ghostly Riverside because the reaction would surely have been blunt and to the point as we were quite simply nowhere near good enough. Put very politely.

Boro fans were already aggrieved by the team selection. Three men at the back and a forward line of Gestede and Nmecha would not have been the fans pick. The Boro head coach did hint in pre match press conference that certain players had impressed in training. Could they go on and show this freed up from the pressures of supporters?

We started fairly well in the opening minutes but once Swansea went on attack our defence looked decidedly off colour, the midfield caved in and we exposed a soft centre again and again. It was almost as if we were running on empty immediately, in the words of BBC Radio Tees co-commentator Neil Maddison we were already looking for our second wind in the first 20 minutes.

It will be of real concern to Jonathan Woodgate that we looked about two yards behind on the pitch, so maybe two weeks behind in preparation.

The situation was better in the second half following changes with Djed Spence and Patrick Roberts to inject urgency and later Marvin Johnson, Fletcher and Britt all tried to make an impact. But the damage had been done and Swansea were able to sit back, retain their shape and hold on to what they had won in the first period.

Spence and especially Roberts made a real impression. Roberts is a constant threat with his runs into the box, although he must look for a team mate or shoot because he won't always get a penalty. But along with Spence and Fletcher he was at least prepared to really run at opponents.

Questions have to be asked about why we were so decidedly second best in that first period. And what we can now do to play catch up from a horrendous start to this mini campaign of nine matches. We have now lost that momentum from Forest and Charlton. Charlton, who incidently bounced back with an away win. The pack came snapping back from below us and now only the slenderest of margins keeps us out of that bottom three.

One slight saving grace is that home advantage seems to be out of the window now. Considering we haven't won at the Riverside in aeons it is maybe just as well that everyone else could now be in that boat.

We must make major structural changes to the team for next week's trip to Stoke. We will need to be so much sharper and we will need to work hard to catch up fitness wise. The confidence of everyone has taken a real battering on Saturday. I would advise the players to stay well away from social media now for a few weeks. There is not going to be any support from the crowd at games, so until we get a positive performance and result, stay cocooned and work hard to respond on the pitch.

For the record Ayew and Brewster (2) did the goal damage. Along with Conor Gallagher they cut through us like a knife through butter. Only when the so-adaptable Jonny Howson replaced Shotton at centre back did we have any mobility to cope. Fry looked rusty and we missed Makoudi, and of course Ayala. But the latter has gone now and the former loan player was missing from the entire squad, so read into that what you will.

Troubled times ahead then. Woodgate will need to show his leadership skills in quickly turning us around and rescuing the club from an unthinkable fate. With no fans to get behind the team, it is down to the players and management team to make a massive difference now. We simply must respond.

Middlesbrough 0-3 Swansea (Ayew, Brewster 2)

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