Having completed what looked like two potentially difficult opening matches against sides who, just a couple of months ago, were established Premier league clubs ‘Boro have not performed too badly.
That we only took one point from the two games was nevertheless an indication that last season’s problems remain, but hopefully that may be about to change.
For large parts of both games, for example, we were comfortably better than both Watford and Bournemouth but the old failings were once again very obvious with the inability to convert chances and the concession of soft goals dictating the results.
It’s ironic that Neil Warnock’s attempts to strengthen the spine of the team resulted in the signings of Grant Hall and Marcus Bettinelli, yet neither has really begun particularly well. Hall was strongly at fault for Watford’s goal and it was also his deflection that led to Bournemouth’s.
New goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, meanwhile, made a couple of good saves against Bournemouth but was actually at fault for both of Barnsley’s goals in a very disappointing defeat – albeit with almost a reserve side – in the Carabao Cup. It must be said, however, that the last thing we needed at this stage would have been a mid-week trip to Chelsea so he probably did us a favour!
Since then, of course, we have also seen the arrivals of striker Chuba Akpom and defensive midfielder Sam Morsy and once they have had a few training sessions with the squad they will add much needed experience, a bit more depth and hopefully a few more options.
Meanwhile the potential re-emergence of Marcus Browne on his return from his loan spell with Oxford might also be a positive over the very busy period coming up, especially having scored his first goal for ‘Boro against Bournemouth. He seems to have added a bit of steel since his disappointing displays when he first arrived at the Riverside so he might be one to watch.
So, early days and absolutely no need to panic just yet, but having not got what we deserved in the first two league games things really do need to improve at both ends of the pitch.
You can never tell in the Championship, of course, and as I write the top three teams in the division – all with maximum points – are Reading, Bristol City and Luton. Who would have forecast that at the start?
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the season so far, though, was seeing fans back at the Riverside, albeit only a thousand, but it’s a start and we can only pray that things get better very soon.
Unfortunately that could be jeopardised by the attitude of those who seem determined not to follow the guidelines. At least Neil Warnock did the right thing and stayed away as instructed. Let’s hope he has a speedy recovery.