|Ipswich Town 0 v 2 Middlesbrough|
Tuesday, 2nd October 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Ipswich Away is a Bogey Ground, Not the Place to Start Our Revival - Notes for Middlesbrough
Monday, 1st Oct 2018 10:20 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Tuesday night’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“It has become an absolute chore to watch Boro lately. It’s pretty depressing heading to matches knowing you are not going to be excited”, “These recent games have been atrocious”, “The most disappointing thing for me now is that I feel like I couldn’t care less. I’m just completely bored.”
“Proper grim this.” Boro may be arriving in East Anglia sitting third in the table, but the brand of dull football they have played under Tony Pulis has yielded a goal difference of just 12 scored and four conceded after 10 league games. With one win in five games, Teessiders are starting to get nervous.
“That’s now four games in the bounce where we have been poor”, “It’s a matter of time before our league position reflects how poor we are”, “How we are near the top of the table baffles me, as we have seldom shown enough to earn it. After the last two games I doubt if we will remain there.”
“Did I think the season would be one of the dullest from a fan’s point of view? Yes”, “We’re playing Pulis football but we’re winning regularly. Some people will never be happy”, “It’s not fun to watch, but the points and our league position temper the disillusion to a large degree”, “A win is a win.”
“This is the most one-paced unadventurous Boro I can ever remember watching. Just leave, Pulis. I’m so done watching this trash”, “What did we expect? No one suggested Pulis would have us play like world-beaters”, “Nobody wants to see us playing to lose, but some want to be entertained.”
“Tony Pulis is absolutely sucking the life out of the football club, just as he did at the previous ones where he stayed for any length of time. The atmosphere is flat and who can blame anyone when you are going through 90 minutes of that?”, “Sign tall players, use long throws, score from set pieces.”
The 60-year-old replaced Garry Monk last December and guided Boro to a play-off semi-final defeat to Aston Villa. He has been praised for “the togetherness and attitude of his team”, but has created a divide between fans “who want to be entertained” and “those who say it’s a results business”.
“Under Pulis we’re a pragmatic side. It would be nice to scent blood and hammer teams but it’s not going to happen with him in charge. We play to the particular demands of the game we’re involved in”, “He gets the best out of his players and is a master at managing games. We’re in good hands.”
“The team is good enough but the coaching is poor. We have decent defensive coaches but nobody on the bench who can teach attacking skills”, “[Former Boro boss] Aitor Karanka played a different type of defensive football with lots of possession and ball retention. Pulis’s football is more direct.”
“What Pulis is planning is hard to fathom, possibly going out not to lose rather than to win games”, “I can’t stand his stubbornness but we knew it would be boring and that he didn’t play expansive football”, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have Pulis thrust upon them.”
“We have no creativity. We are a workmanlike team which might be enough to get us over the line this season but it’s torrid to look at”, “It’s annoying letting other teams have so much possession. By doing that we make it easy for them as we can’t put them under pressure when they have the ball.”
“Do we actually have tactics? Do the players and manager discuss before the game what the plan is? It’s hard to believe any manager would expect this approach to win a game or maybe the players are just messing up his instructions”, “I simply refuse to believe that any manager could be this aimless.”
“It’s criminal that as a team we are so very poor at building spells of pressure. We are bordering on clueless on what to do or where to pass when in possession. There’s no pattern to our passing and we’re lucky to get close to, let alone in the opponents’ penalty box before the ball is turned over.”
The starting XI (above) for Saturday’s 1-1 draw away to Hull lined up in the wing-back system which has been preferred by most supporters. They feel it suits the profile of a squad which lacks width while giving support for striker Britt Assombalonga who has struggled when playing as a lone striker.
“At least we aren’t conceding in many games”, “On the plus side we seem as strong as anyone when defending and clean sheets will keep is near the top if we can nick goals”, “To be fair, when you play with 10 men behind the ball relying on set pieces at home, a clean sheet is the least you can expect.”
Keeper Darren Randolph has been praised for his shot-stopping while centre-backs Daniel Ayala and Aden Flint offer height and physicality at both ends of the pitch. George Friend has struggled to find a role in this system and many fans prefer the passing of Dael Fry or the experience of Danny Batth.
“I’m not convinced our midfield is attacking enough to provide our strikers with decent service”, “We are utterly impotent in the final third, but it’s hard when you have a manager who plays too many defensive-minded midfielders who sit collectively too deep and misplace a fair few passes.”
Adam Clayton is seen as the strongest holding midfielder over Muhamad Besic. Jonny Howson’s passing and George Saville’s ability to attack the box are sporadic strengths. Lewis Wing’s set pieces and energy alongside Howson game the team a greater creative balance in their early season games.
Stewart Downing and Ryan Shotton respectively add experience and long throws but at the expense of pace and threatening crosses. Pulis experimentally started Sam McQueen and Paddy McNair in wing-back roles in recent EFL Cup games where both have offered a more attacking energetic threat.
“We need some spark”, “It’s a worry where the goals will come from”, “The downside is that we look toothless and unlikely to score. We have a massive lack of creativity in the team”, “There isn’t a striker in the league who would thrive playing this system. Nobody must work with the forwards.”
“Stay solid and aim for the big guy, largely bypassing the midfield.” Britt Assombalonga is seen as the most potent striker with his athleticism and finishing ability. Many fans believe that the movement of Martin Braithwaite is a better foil for him that the aerial strength and physicality of Jordan Hugill.
“We need to start making and taking chances when we are in good positions. The number of times we get players to the byline and fail to put anyone in is a joke”, “We lack the ability to thread balls in to split defences”, “With Hugill getting more game time it’s easy to see the direction Pulis is going.”
Poor Set Piece Deliveries
“Our set pieces from all sources are simply not offering enough. They don’t track the men who are meant to be scoring goals from them”, “Our set-piece issues have made our approach worse. Our deliveries and execution have been atrocious.
“I’m happy for us to put a significant weight on set plays if we actually look like we work on them. We have had every man and his dog taking them without hitting positions we are aiming for. We somehow manage to have a team where Flint and Ayala don’t look much of a threat from corners.”
Hull 1 – 1 Middlesbrough
“That was a terrible display and it rests on Pulis’s shoulders”, “Looking at it from a neutral point of view it was a game between two very poor teams and neither deserved to win”, “That was a truly shocking performance, one of the poorest I have watched. We played like a bunch of carthorses.”
“Our passing was non-existent. We played eighties-style hoofball.” Britt Assombalonga opened the scoring for Boro on 51 heading in Howson's deep cross at the far post, but Hull equalised through Jarrod Bowen's penalty 18 minutes later after Chris Martin was fouled. “It was a deserved leveller.”
“We are making Hull look like Manchester City. This is terrible football”, “We are just booting balls to the head of Hugill”, “The most annoying thing is that this Hull team are truly garbage and we would beat them easily if we took the game to them”, “Horrible tactics and a truly woeful performance.”
Middlesbrough 0 – 0 Swansea
“This game was frustrating, we were barely tested at the back”, “I really think we should have won that game comfortably but we are not clinical enough at all”, “We had a couple of half-chances but looked toothless. Luckily Swansea also looked equally toothless so we never looked like conceding.”
“It’s going to be 0-0, isn’t it?” The home fans knew early in the game that this would be an afternoon dominated by defences. There were plenty of chances and set pieces throughout the encounter, but neither side had enough quality to capitalise. “We had no answer to dealing with a packed defence.”
“Swansea will have been happy with how the game went. We made it too easy for them when they had the ball”, “A nothing game, it’s not the worst two points we will drop but we put in ball after ball into the box from out wide and from set pieces, and maybe one or two at most looked dangerous.”
Pulis played with a back four (above) and many fans felt that it was too defensive and also had too many players playing out of position. Howson is not seen as a natural playmaker, while Braithwaite struggled in a wide role and Assombalonga was left isolated. “On the plus side, another clean sheet.”
Middlesbrough 2 – 0 Bolton
“Three points and Bolton’s first away defeat of the season, what’s not to like about that?”, “The 90 tortuous minutes of drudgery we have all sat through”, “There were stretches of the game where you could hear a pin drop. The lack of atmosphere was all to do with the tedious stuff on the pitch.”
“A good three points but as a spectacle it was dire.” George Saville put the dominant hosts ahead when he side-footed home after a Gary O’Neil error on 34 minutes. Bolton improved after the break but rarely threatened and substitute Assombalonga sealed Boro’s victory deep into stoppage time.
“The atmosphere was garbage tonight. People who were there will know exactly what I’m talking about”, “I was so bored during that match. There was so little to get excited about, even the small things, the small breakaways where something might happen. There was barely any of that tonight.”
Bolton fans discussed how Pulis’s starting XI (above) disrupted their game plan. Pulis chose to switch from the wing-back shape he had regularly used and deployed Jordan Hugill as an out-and-out target man. “There was not a great deal of improvement tonight. We were pretty much gifted both goals.”
Goalkeepers and Central Defenders
“Darren Randolph has been our most consistent player.” The 31-year-old former West Ham keeper “consistently saves us points. He has made stunning saves to keep us in games”, “He is as cool as you like and his presence in the air has saved us when teams get crosses in. I like having him at the club.”
“Randolph can be too slow to react and isn’t the best with his feet”, “It’s no secret that his kicking is his worst attribute as well as a lack of urgency at times. However, it’s the last thing we need to worry about with regard to a keeper. He makes some outstanding saves and is an incredible shot-stopper.”
“Pulis has said on multiple occasions that he really rates Daniel Ayala and that he’s one of the best central defenders in this league.” The 29-year-old former Canary “wins his duels but doesn’t add dynamism to the side”, “He’s vulnerable in one on ones against fast, attacking players given his lack of mobility.”
“Ayala needs to tone down his occasional reckless behaviour. He’s a tad aggressive at times and gets a lot of cards”, “He was pacing around his area like a madman at Hull. He can be pretty stupid, giving away a lot of set pieces”, “He copes fantastically in the air and is involved in so many of our goals.”
“Dael Fry definitely needs to be back against Ipswich. I was impressed with how he was able to bring the ball out during our good run of form at the start of the season.” The 21-year-old youth product “looks confident in possession. He’s not bad with the ball at his feet and he makes good challenges.”
“Fry’s abilities at the back gives us a nice balance and alleviating the similarities of Flint and Ayala”, “He gets knocked off the ball too easily for my liking and I can see physical teams targeting him”, “He looks confident in possession and when pinging the ball about but he is shaky when pressed aggressively.”
“The signing of Danny Batth just seems to be for cover.” The 28-year-old centre-half joined in August on a season-long loan from Wolves. “He’s a signing which won’t massively change us for the better or make us more dynamic. He is here as a back-up for injuries and suspensions in our back three.”
“Flint is similar to Ayala, less erratic and better in the opposition box. They both score goals but Flint is better with his feet.” The 29-year-old June arrival from Bristol City “can cause havoc in the air at set pieces”, “If a ball is going into the opposition box, Flint will win it nine times out of 10 in the air.”
“Do people think Flint is here because he’s s good defender or because he scores lots of goals?”, “He is a unit. He’s very powerful and doesn’t shy out of tough challenges, a good organiser who reads the game well despite not being very mobile. He gets into good positions to close-off options and areas.”
“George Saville can arrive into the box and find a finishing touch.” The 25-year-old arrived in August initially on loan from Millwall in a deal which will become permanent in January. “He’s a composed, cool goal-scoring midfielder who arrives late into the area for knockdowns”, “He looks dangerous.”
Grant Ward v Wolves' George Saville
“Saville has to show the guts to play like he did at Millwall. Risk-taking is one of his strengths”, “He can appear to drift around the pitch, but he gets forward and chips in with goals”, “He was subdued apart from scoring. His left foot is something else”, “He reads situations well in both penalty boxes.”
“I can’t even justify having Muhamed Besic in the squad based on his displays since his return.” The 26-year-old Bosnia international returned on a second loan spell from Everton in August having been at the Riverside for the second half of last season. He has recently mostly been used as a substitute.
Middlesbrough's Patrick Bamford celebrates with Mo Besic
“Besic should be used to come on and give us extra legs in midfield”, “He’s effective and aggressive when stopping teams surging through the middle of the pitch but he does lack guile on the ball”, “He runs in circles with decent passes on”, “He’s slow and kills our threat from all positive breakaways.”
“Adam Clayton is not as dynamic as he was but he does a solid job.” The 29-year-old ex-Huddersfield man “has never had a great deal of attacking intent but he controls that midfield area”, “He is quite slow and he needs a mobile partner to keep the tempo of our play going, but he’s a solid presence.”
“Clayton is brilliant at short passes and dropping in between centre-backs. He tried to be available for the ball under Karanka’s system but I’m not sure Pulis wants the defenders getting too much of the ball from midfielders”, “He’s a decent holding player whose positioning screens the defenders.”
“We should at least have Lewis Wing on the bench.” The 23-year-old attacking midfielder, signed from non-league Shildon, “offers something a bit different”, “His physical development isn’t the same as other players given his background, but our dead balls have looked poor since he went out of the team.”
“Howson is at his best carrying the ball forward. He tries to drive us up the pitch.” The 30-year-old former Norwich man “put in a beauty of a cross at Hull to put us one up. He has often been our only creative outlet”, “He pulls the strings with long controlled passes to the striker and he can shoot.”
Tristan Nydam v Jonathan Howson (Middlesbrough)
“Howson keeps the ball brilliantly higher up the pitch”, “Norwich fans said he would have a few good games followed by a run where he was non-existent”, “His ball distribution and energy are his strong attributes”, “One of our few players who can create something as an all-action box-to-box player.”
Wing-Backs, Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Ryan Shotton wastes possession and crossing opportunities to an infuriating amount.” The 29-year-old former Birmingham right-back “works hard but is still not great on the ball. He adds no creativity apart from his long throws”, “He doesn’t offer a lot going forward and he can be defensively shaky.”
Ryan Shotton (Middlesbrough) v Josh Magennis (Bolton Wanderers)
“It’s really embarrassing that a player like Shotton can play the ball that badly under no pressure”, “He must be more careful with what he’s doing defensively. He leaves wingers on the halfway line in a one-v-one with Flint. When one of his poor deliveries is cleared, the winger is then clean through.”
“I don’t see why we need to have George Friend playing if we have a back three.” The 30-year-old ex-Doncaster left-back “definitely doesn’t like the 5-3-2 formation we’re playing. He ends up playing very centrally. He can defend well when he has a solid winger in front if him and it’s his main task.”
“Friend has been a fan favourite for years, but you always know that when it gets to that final pass, cross or shot that it’s going to be poor none times out of 10”, “His clearances more often than not end up finding opponents”, “He lets the ball run towards our goal before playing risky clearances.”
“Paddy McNair started well in the right wing-back spot, although he seems rooted to the spot, not tracking runners when the opposition started to exert pressure.” The 23-year-old June acquisition from Sunderland “is a solid option who has more pace and ability than many supporters realise.”
“I think we signed McNair to score goals for us and get up and down the pitch rather than sit next to a holding midfielder”, “He has shown flashes of good ability and he emerged with credit from that awful Sunderland team”, “He could be a useful attacking wing-back against teams who will sit back.”
“Sam McQueen looks quick and gets in behind defences but his end product is lacking.” The 21-year-old loan signing from Southampton “put in a good few crosses as a left wing-back in the EFL Cup and earned his place in the side by doing so much”, “He has looked alright in his cameo performances.”
“I like what McQueen is about. He looks like he might have a wand of a left foot and he tries to get forward a good bit”, “We are a different threat with him at wing-back, where he can whip in a cross or play an incisive pass”, “He is good in the air, he has good pace and tries to be positive on the ball.”
“Downing is often everywhere but nowhere. He doesn’t have the pace or finishing to change a game when we have a forward three.” The 34-year-old one-time Villa, Liverpool and England winger “makes the odd bad pass but he always shows for the ball and tries very hard when getting back to defend”.
Stuart Downing v Toumani Diagouraga
“Where is Downing playing? He’s everywhere but not in a good way”, “Sometimes he has a free role, largely playing centrally but he shifts out wide when he sees a crossing opportunity. He can leave the striker isolated”, “His football brain is there but his body can’t now implement what he wants to do.”
“You can see what a beast Jordan Hugill is in the air. He’s really strong and will score a few headers this season.” The 26-year-old loanee from West Ham, a Town target in his Preston days, “tries hard but seems to lack quality. He’s not a flair player”, “He wins almost all of his aerial duels but is heading the ball straight to the opposition.”
Jordan Hugill of Preston celebrates late equaliser
“Hugill is doing what Pulis expects of him. He plays because of his work rate and as a decent option to bring our midfielders into the game higher up the pitch”, “He will knock the opposition defenders about and will pass and run all day”, “He couldn’t pass the ball to himself three times against a wall.”
“If Martin Braithwaite is stuck out wide like he was when we played with one up top against Bolton, it’s going to be a lonely afternoon for Britt.” The 27-year-old Denmark international and ex-Toulouse man “needs to play centrally off Britt. Everyone can see the difference in makes for both of them.”
“Braithwaite’s best work is off a target man who brings him into play more around the box”, “He has to be one of the classiest players in the league. He frequently turns defences inside out”, “His clever movement pulls defenders all over the place and he adds a bit of creativity that nobody else offers.”
“Britt has had to do the job of two or three forwards in recent games. His decision-making is still in question but how can he get it right every time between dropping deep, playing off the shoulder and running the channels.” The 25-year-old ex-Forest striker “is doing what he can but he lacks support”.
Britt Assombalonga and Ben Gibson celebrate for Middlesbrough
“Britt gets nowhere near enough credit for the job he’s doing”, “His first touch is poor and he’s awful at holding up the ball. He wants to dribble through defenders and not around them”, “He can’t get on the end of corners and hardly makes a difference pressing defenders, but he’s our best finisher.”
Teessiders’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Our good start to the season is glossing over a pretty bad turn in form. We have had one win in five now and haven't played well since drawing away to Leeds”, “The manager has to address the glaring issues and get a reaction from the players at Ipswich. My fear is that he won’t change anything.”
“Draws won’t get us promoted. We need a run of wins starting on Tuesday. Bin the defend and nick one plan and keep Ipswich on the ropes instead by starting on the front foot as we did earlier in the season against Sheffield United.”
“Ipswich away on Tuesday is another bogey ground”, “We could certainly do with a welcome win at a bogey ground. Ipswich are draw specialists at home and us away, so the smart money should point to another draw. Ipswich have drawn all their home matches, but are still looking for their first win.”
“Pulis will try to grind out a 1-0 win against Ipswich.” Several Boro fans have highlighted our record of five consecutive home draws. “Boro typically end team's bad runs, so it's not looking good and a draw may be the best we can hope for. Hope I'm wrong and the team returns to winning ways.”
The busiest Boro message-board is the friendly and informative One Boro. Middlesbrough highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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