I’ve been a ‘Boro fan long enough to know there was a certain inevitability that having lost all six of their away games so far this season Rotherham would come to top-of-the-table ‘Boro and get something out of the fixture. That they only got one point was good fortune from our point of view as they had easily the best chance of the game.
So once again we flattered to deceive and failed to take full advantage of an excellent opportunity to extend our lead at the top. How important that is will be defined by the situation at the end of November because the forthcoming fixtures can hardly be defined as easy.
Two home games against Derby County and Wigan are combined with away trips to Stoke City, Brentford and Preston, and having failed to despatch lowly Rotherham at home you can’t see any of those being a ‘gimme.’ We’re therefore going to have to hope that whoever Pulis plays up front can find their shooting boots pretty quickly. Right now there’s only six points between the top two (Leeds and ‘Boro) and ninth (Blackburn Rovers) in the table so it’s pretty important that we get positive results across November.
The one grain of hope in all this is that with the exception of Norwich there doesn’t seem to be any other team showing consistency with everyone around us dropping points on a regular basis. I say with the exception of Norwich because their form has been excellent since beating ‘Boro at Carrow Road with 5 wins and a draw from their last seven games.
The only other team that could be evolving as a real threat is Frank Lampard’s Derby County who have just despatched the other potential league leaders West Brom. We are looking forward to hosting Derby at the Riverside this Saturday and once again my long experience as a ‘Boro fan tells me not to be too surprised if we reverse the Rotherham situation and beat them convincingly.
In truth, it’s just about impossible to forecast what’s going to happen from week to week in the Championship because the real attraction of this division is that anyone really can beat anyone. It’s an amazingly strong league and there is no doubt that once the FA Cup proper begins there will be Championship sides that comfortably despatch some of their Premier rivals in what will be considered ‘shock results.’
The real truth is that – apart from the top financially benefited eight or so teams – the gap between the bottom of the Premiership and the top of the Championship continues to narrow. Over the past few seasons promoted teams like Burnley, Bournemouth, Brighton and Watford have developed into accepted Premiership sides that can compete with the top teams. Conversely, teams like Norwich, West Brom, Stoke and Birmingham that have been regular fixtures in the Premiership in the recent past are now accepted residents of the Championship.
To be honest, you can also include ‘Boro in that list but let’s hope that by the end of the season Tony Pulis has been able to restore us to the elevated position where many of us feel we belong. The good thing about having a manager as experienced and knowledgeable as Pulis means that if we do go up this season there is infinitely more chance of us staying there than there was under Karanka.
We can only continue to dream!