Having played 13 games this season ‘Boro’s 2-0 win over Barnsley is the first time they’ve won two in a row and while we are all well aware that such a statistic in no way constitutes a promotion challenge it has suddenly elevated us to within three points of a play-off place. After the despondency that followed the defeat at Hull that’s surely evidence of the absolute contradiction of both Middlesbrough FC and the Championship. It’s also why it remains one of the most exciting leagues in the world because literally anything can happen throughout the season and you simply can’t write off any team at any stage.
On the way home from that defeat at Hull I could only contemplate what a difference a couple of good finishes would have made to the match and might eventually make to the season overall. We must have had at least four gilt edged chances to put Hull to the sword and yet all went begging. A piece of good fortune for Hull’s first goal and a second goal while we were wide open chasing the equaliser totally contradicted what had gone on in the previous eighty minutes. Conversely, we go to the pretty poor game against Peterborough in which neither team showed a great deal until Peterborough were desperately unlucky not to have been given a penalty. ‘Boro did pick up a bit in the second half but good substitutions made all the difference in the last five minutes and we fortuitously ended up with three points we probably didn’t deserve. Last night against Barnsley was again a bit of an enigma, with an amazing miss by Duncan Watmore the pick of at least five good spurned opportunities. Andraz Sporar took his goal well and we scraped another late on, but while Barnsley could also have had a couple in the early stages they were totally outplayed for the rest of the night and our goal difference should have been considerably improved had both our accuracy and choice of pass been more decisive.
Perhaps it was fortunate that in the middle of a dreadful injury crisis we came up against two struggling sides but in the past that has often meant more contradictory results when we have lost games we were expected to have won. Could it be, then, that these two wins have meant we’ve turned the corner and can look for a bit more consistency? We’ll certainly find that out when we come up against a third struggling side in Cardiff. That returning managers often do well against a club they hold dear might well mean that Neil Warnock can at last pull off three wins in a row and what a difference that would make not only to the confidence of both players and fans but also to the look of the league table. Let’s hope it happens.
It’s definitely a possibility because it’s worth noting that in recent games the likes of Andraz Sporar and Martin Payero have begun to look as if they could make a real impact as they come to terms with the pace of the championship. We know how good Sol Bamba has been before his illness but his inclusion in the face of the current injury situation has been an absolute revelation and just one big reason for the two wins. On the way to the Barnsley match, incidentally, I thoroughly enjoyed the replay on Tees Radio of the wonderful interview with Sol conducted by Mark Drury. Originally aired on October 6th it was a great insight into a really lovely man. If you haven’t heard it then seek it out on the Tees Radio site. It’s well worth a listen!
There is, of course, a long way still to go and with almost a whole defence out injured things, as they say, can only get better, even though the irony of having two clean sheets with a makeshift defence should be clear to everyone. But let’s just wait and see what the next few games bring. Who knows, by this time in November we might once again be talking up the promotion possibilities. How good would that be?
Have a great month!