Filed: Friday, 22nd May 2009
By: Preview Percy
And so another season closes and this time round it’s home to Boro for a Sunday 4pm kick-off in a match to be covered by the ailing Setanta channel.
Boro’s problems are well-documented and sitting in second from bottom place their situation looks a bit on the grim side to say the least. Their chances of survival will depend not only on the weekend’s events at the Boleyn but also upon events at other grounds. This is doubly true with reference to the KC Stadium, where Boro’ will be relying not only on a Man Utd win, but also on the margin of any Salford victory being convincing enough to reduce their own ask.
We’ve been there ourselves of course but the advent of mobile internet has made keeping tracks on things a little easier these days. Who can forget that day that Man City went down at Anfield when rumours went about the ground that the other results had gone their way, giving rise to a fatal spell of keep-ball. By the time they found out what was really going on it was too late. I also remember popping over to Palace (I lived in the area, there was a woman involved and I was at a loose end) a few years back on a Saturday when we didn’t have a game and when they needed results elsewhere to go their way for promotion. The person stood next to me had a radio walkman and, unbelievably, kept making up goals at the other matches which had the home support going wild. I too had a radio which confirmed the true situation – the fact that the woman I was with preferred to believe some random nutter rather than me told me that going out with a Palace supporter would not be a great idea. This was something that was later confirmed in the bar when a Palace supporter tried to tell me with a straight face that they had been the first English club to win the European Cup.
The Boro supporters who make the trip (of which more comment later) will have an eye/ear on mobile phones and radios throughout the match and the networks will be stretched to breaking point as news flitters between Villa Park, the KC, the Stadium of Light and the Boleyn. Boro’s task on the pitch will be made more difficult in their eyes by the absence of Stuart Downing. Overrated though he may be, what little attacking threat Boro’ have posed in recent times has come from the England midfielder and his absence through injury will have a major psychological effect on the visitors as they give the dice the last throw. Of course when talking of psychological issues, supporters and players will cling to any straws going and Gareth Southgate will no doubt be referring his players back to the two Cup matches back in February where we were firstly held to a 1-1 draw at the Boleyn and the subsequent replay won 2-0 by Boro’. Southgate would perhaps do well not to dwell too closely on those matches – Downing’s influence was paramount against an Irons side strangely out of sorts. Carlton Cole played in both matches but for all but the first 20 of the first match he was a virtual passenger having picked up a knock. 3,500 Hammers made the trip to the Riverside. This will be nearly 3,000 more than Boro’ have sold for this match at the time of writing, which, even without the free coach travel that bolstered the travelling support for the replay, is a pretty poor showing for a match with such vital repercussions.
Boro’s last win came back on 11th April when they overturned relegation-rivals Hull 3-1 at the Riverside. Since that win they have picked up only two points from a 0-0 draw at Fulham and a 1-1 in last week’s home fixture against Villa – the match in which Downing picked up the foot injury that curtailed his season – and possibly his Boro’ career. The most devastating result for them in recent weeks was surely the 3-1 reverse on Tyneside which for Boro’ had the double-whammy effect giving three points to a relegation rival as well as hitting the goal-difference where it hurts.
Boro’s problems can be traced back to the players. Yes this is a pretty obvious thing to say but there are certain positions that seem to have been a problem throughout the season. On the way back to the hotel after the 1-1 league draw on Teesside all the talk on local radio was of how ‘keeper Ross Turnbull was the answer to England’s problems, such talk being bolstered by his excellent double save at the death from Bowyer & Collison. Since then his form appears to have dipped and Aussie Brad Jones is current first choice ‘twixt the sticks. Up front there have been problems. Alves will be missing but, such has been the Brazilian’s form since his big-money arrival most Smoggies will see his absence as a bonus. Mido, who scored against us in the return league fixture, has gone on an exchange trip to Wigan with Marlon King coming in the other direction. The main threat up front is likely to come from Tuncay whose overhead kick against Villa gave them a bit of hope for a while. Former loan-hammer Jeremie Alliadiere (of “he’s here he’s there” fame) is likely to be available though there are doubts over O’Neill, Wheater and Riggott.
It’s been an interesting season for us. The departure of Alan Curbishley seems a lifetime ago. It’s been down and up for Zola, an initial run of poor – and often unlucky – results saw us flirting with the relegation zone until our post-Christmas run saw us getting the result some of the play deserved. Sadly the sale of Bellamy coincided with a return to the spate of injuries that have cost us in the past and the forward line of DiMichele and Tristan has fooled nobody really. On occasion last week, Carlton Cole showed what we’d been missing all these weeks, though there was an understandable element of ring-rustiness about his game. The return will have done him good and, if he hasn’t suffered any ill-effects from the Everton match, Cole must be a favourite to start ahead of either DiMichele or Tristan.
At the back James Tomkins will be missing and it’s difficult to work out what is more disgraceful, Dowd’s stupid decision or the club’s failure to appeal against the ridiculous red card issued following Cahill’s dive. The club has previous in this regard – Carlton Cole missed some matches earlier in the season following his sending off against Arsenal and his second red card at Wigan similarly beggared belief. How anyone expects refereeing standards to improve if such moronic behaviour is allowed to go unchallenged escapes me. James Collins is a doubt and if Ginge is unavailable expect a start for Spector at right back with the skipper moving inside to partner Upson. Danny Gabbidon has resumed full training but will need a decent pre-season before he can seriously be considered for a return to action. In the middle Dyer may make what may be a record umpteenth comeback from injury though the season is coming to a close a week too early for Parker.
I think we’ll win this one. The probable return of Cole will give a boost to the side and, given our opponents’ predicament, an early goal is likely to see the heads drop. If the passing game clicks it might be a pleasant afternoon in the sun. I’ll go for a 3-1, misery for Boro’ and a quick look at the mobile interweb on our own behalf to see if the Scousers have stuffed Spurs by enough to top the afternoon off nicely.
Enjoy the match – and the summer!
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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