Middlesbrough 0 - 0 Everton
A trip to Boro is never the most salubrious but when you get the complete English winter in one day it is even less appealing. Rain, sleet, snow, strong wind and freezing cold makes you wonder if the trip up was the best decision. Both sets of fans were rowdy before kick-off suggesting all that effort was necessary against the elements. As the team as announced seemed to find favour with everyone and we looked forward to another decent show.
We were changed into our third kit for the game and so the ‘All Blacks’ kicked off. It soon became clear that this was going to be a slog as Boro looked to keep the back door shut and break quickly this allowed us to have the ball and pass it about but getting into the final third was proving difficult. We had to wait some twenty minutes for a ball forward for Lukaku materialised when Davies threaded one but alas as the Belgian turned on the power and pace he fell over! Looked like a soaking wet pitch and wrong studs.
Half-hour mark and Tom Davies threads another into Lukaku’s path and he is one on one with the keeper but he shot straight at him and the ball cannoned away. I could not help but wonder why after drawing the keeper out he didn’t try a chip as he was going down or a nudge to the right and a side-foot home. Still it’s easy from the stands isn’t it?
Until half time the game became a cup tie as slick passing turned to hoof’s, tackling varied from strong too weak as both teams strived to combat each other and the elements the only constant being that neither side could work anything in the final third although Lookman did have three ‘not bad’ chances but on each occasion he took too long and was crowded out before damage could be done. The half time whistle sounded with the game at a bit of a mid-field deadlock.
Half-time: 0-0 and the chat centred on the weather and Lukaku’s miss.
We made no changes in personnel at the break but I noticed that Davies had swopped roles with Barkley. Right from the off Boro attacked and we gave away a free kick on the edge of the box and ex Blue Forshaw took the kick which caused havoc in the box but Joel came to our rescue when he grabbed the ball in the middle of the scrum. Without having a lot to do Joel was competent in all that was asked of him and his catching from crosses was the stuff confidence is made of.
If anything as the weather got worse certainly colder so Boro turned up the heat and on the hour mark brought on debutant Guedioura for Forshaw to add another attack minded player to the mix but we had got more into our stride and the game became end to end again but the manager on sixty two mins took off the ineffectual Gana but no like for like change as Valencia was the choice and Schneiderlin went in front of the back four. Despite the changes the game stayed end to end but now with a cup tie feel as both teams slugged it out.
Around the seventy minute mark a couple of things happened for us, firstly Barkley threaded through a peach of a pass that put Lookman in one on one alas he did a Rom and took the ball in and fired straight at keeper who again had the ball bounce off him and cannon away. Just after that the youngster was hooked and Lennon made an appearance. The cup tie feel both on the pitch and in the stands persisted. Tackles became stronger, free kicks more regular and just scraps for chances with neither side looking capable of getting a foot on the ball and engineering chances on any sort of basis. However with about three minutes to go the Boro right back got down the line and crossed at pace, the ball was met by another Boro substitute Gestede flush on the forehead and but for some lightening reflexes from Joel to get the effort over the bar it would have been a very long journey home. The corner was cleared.
The game was played out with both teams taking a point but right on the whistle Tom Davies wellied the ball away in anger the only player to show his thoughts on the result. The lad had another standout game both in his first half role being in the hole behind Rom then second half the right hand side of the three. It was good to see such commitment I hope it spreads through the squad.
MotM – Davies or Robles
Overall an all action game that ended in a fair result. A couple of things I noticed, firstly Gana seemed ill at ease with himself and was anything but the all action dynamo pre AFCON; secondly, when we signed Lookman I read he was very skilful and lightening quick. His skill is there with fast feet but I have yet to see blistering pace to leave a marker for dead. Early days I know but I hope that part of his game turns up and sooner the better.
Still plenty of points to play for but our away form needs to improve so all in all can they address these deficiencies plus have some one on one finishing practice while in the warm weather of Dubai. Incidentally do you agree with these sunshine jollies for the players or do you view them as a reward for failure, whatever I hope they come back invigorated and leap forward in confidence and cause us to knock the dust off passports.
See you in a fortnight and off we go again.
UP THE BLUES
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