Warnock Starts With Vital Boro Win
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 28 Jun 2020 11:53:00
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Boro defeated Stoke City 2-0 yesterday in the Potteries as Neil Warnock made it a winning start on his relegation rescue mission at Boro. With so many of our rival picking up points earlier in the day with often unlikely results the pressure was on even more at kick off. Under the new boss Boro did not disappoint completing a season double over the beleaguered Potters and leapfrogging over them in the process. Game on now for Boro's relegation race.

Boro looked more organised and resolute in every department, as we battled it out away at Stoke. Warnock had clearly made a big impact. It was a scrappy game not helped by the blustery conditions but once Boro's better finishing counted on the score board the home team showed more and more nerves. Now their manager Michael O'Neill knows he has been dragged right back in to a relegation dogfight.

Neil Warnock made several changes from last week's 0-3 mauling, not all of them tactical as Hayden Coulson was injured and Rudy Gestede called time on his Boro career. But the formation was also tweaked. Djed Spence rewarded for his bright second half with a starting berth at right back. The same applied for Patrick Roberts playing ahead of Spence down the flank. The shorn Saville came in for Clayton, with Howson making a rare appearance in midfield as an enforcer. Warnock reinstated Boro's twin strike force in Britt and top scorer Fletcher and that was to make a massive difference. Britt worked his socks off as a roving centre forward holding up the ball and Fletcher's glancing header from a corner gave us the first half lead to take us on our way.

Stoke might easily have scored first, James McLean's close range shot was brilliantly parried away by Dejan Stojanovic. The Austrian had a far better game for Boro, looking commanding and this save alone would be priceless.

Although Boro did have to make a couple of goal-line clearances with Friend and Fry both very alert, Stoke decided to make an attacking change before half time. Tom Ince came on and really should have scored early in the second half when the home team went right at us. Apart from that he was poor. Fortunately. The early minutes of the second half made uncomfortable watching for Boro fans on the streams at home. We struggled to clear our lines as the opposition penetrated deep into our defences. Yet, a mixture of brave last ditch defending and poor execution meant we weathered the storm without conceding.

Talking about storms there was a real thunder and lightning job back on Teesside and it looked as if the rain was sweeping through those open corners at the hill top Bet365 Stadium. It did not wash away Boro's spirit, grit and determination. We survived the early second half pressure and came out swinging ourselves again.

The second goal could be called a Neil Warnock master stroke. Marcus Tavernier has proved his credentials before as an impact super sub. Where Patrick Roberts might have delayed his shooting, his replacement Tav had no second thoughts, as a path opened up he immediately locked on the target and shot into the corner of the net leaving Butland stranded. 2-0.

Boro had a buffer now. Stoke loaded their attack with experienced reinforcements including Sam Vossen a European Championships quarter finalist scorer for Wales. But Boro continued to battle hard in midfield and defend from the front where Britt now was a spearhead, Fletcher and Tav were sealing off the flanks. Spence showed his lack of experience at times with some naive defending but he is such an asset flying forward, especially when you want to stretch the game and burn up some minutes.

It seems far worse watching from home than at the stadium but that second goal made it just about bearable. There was even a moment of light relief when Powell was red carded for an absolute brainless passage of play. First he kicked out at sub Lewis Wing, then when from the resulting free kick Wingy and Tav passed it between themselves Powell snapped again and lashed out once more so yellow became red within seconds.

So, although Stoke piled on the late pressure they were down on players as well as time and eventually were defeated by the clock.

A great first victory for Neil Warnock and so, so important. With Wigan securing a late win against Blackburn and Hull drawing in a see-saw battle at St Andrews our victory became yet more significant. As Warnock said in the week there will be ups and downs through these final games. So, we need to keep our heads along with the experienced manager and not react like the clueless Powell. But we are back pretty much in the position where we entered lockdown. A result away at Hull is the next target and once again it will reflect massively on the fate of both clubs involved.

The relegation fight is on and Neil Warnock's first match victory gives Boro real hope of success.

Stoke City 0-2 Middlesbrough – Fletcher, Tav.


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