Boro Put The Blades To The Sword
By Rob Nichols
Wednesday 08 Aug 2018 09:56:00
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Middlesbrough blitzed Sheffield United last night putting the Blades to the sword with three first half goals. Former Northern League player Lewis Wing was superb as a creative midfielder, right back Ryan Shotton stepped forward as the new crossing king and Stewy Downing and Jonny Howson rolled back the years with exemplary performances. In fact the whole side was ultra impressive. Just what was everyone so worried about?

Boro could have scored almost from the kick off as the impressive Jonny Howson almost got on the end of a swift move down the right. Yet Boro fans didn't need to wait long for the first goal as the team in red continued to cut through their opponents. It was that man Braithwaite who popped up, Johnny on the spot, to convert from Ryan Shotton front post flick on from Lewis Wing's corner.

The great Dane has now scored our first goal in the first two games of the season. Will the World Cup player buckle down to commit himself to Boro or drift away in the European transfer window? His industry and endeavour has been so impressive in the first two games of the season not to mention scoring the precious goals.

Boro had made just the one change from Saturday's draw at the New Den. Lewis Wing made a big impact as sub in midfield against Millwall and continued where he left off, coming in for Grant Leadbitter on the right centre. George Friend took over as skipper and revelled in the role, marshalling the defence really well, keeping Flint and Fry in check when they made a couple of errors late on.

Those errors were not punished by visitors swept aside by an early whirlwind. A second corner brought a first Boro goal for Aden Flint. The former Bristol City stopper rose high to send a towering header into the back of the net from Wing's flighted corner. The blind pass back at New Den was now forgiven and forgotten.

With so much height and heading ability we will be a force to be reckoned with this season from set pieces. Flint is likely to weigh in with a good few goals. Beside him Fry and once fit Ayala are not shy in stepping forward for headed goals. With Braithwaite sniffing to pick up the pieces we look a threat every time the ball is centred at the moment.

Lewis Wing was showing great passing ability, a quick brain as well as quick feet. Ryan Shotton released down the right looks to have been really working on his crossing. He pinged centre after centre beyond the first man in the first two games of the campaign. Last night he picked out Downing with a guided missile that curved across the area eluding all defenders. It was probably a case of Downing on the shin (thank you Matt Smith for that joke) but any contact counts and Boro were riding high at 3-0 up. Sheff United absolutely blown away.

This re-arranged game brought back memories and comparisons to the Riverside opener for Garry Monk last season. All that expectation of a quick return to the Premier League had been damaged at Wolves but a narrow 1-0 victory seemed to show we were starting to gel. A season on, a manager on, shorn of our three crown jewels in Ben Gibson, Adama Traore and Patrick Bamford there was substantially more trepidation and more empty seats in the stadium.

Obviously holidays have a lot to do with the absences. But with the transfer window slipping away there had been so many worried that the club's chances were now on the slide. Vacancies in the team have become opportunities for Tavernier at Millwall and Wing at home. What a full debut by the former Shildon man, Lewis Wing. Old hands like Shotton, Downing and the perpetually moving, probing, surging, Jonny Howson look reinvigorated. Paddy McNair pace a threat in his brief cameo appearance. And then of course there is our World Cup player, Martin Braithwaite, will he decide to stick around.

Suddenly that late, late draw at Millwall looks important. The spirit and fitness of this squad is impressive. Maybe just maybe the manager is throwing down a gauntlet to his team and to a certain extent the fans. He says we are five players short can we all prove him wrong?

Roll on Saturday versus Garry Monk and Birmingham. Hopefully we will have brought a couple more players in and the with that away draw and sparkling home win the Boro world is starting to look a good deal brighter now.

Middlesbrough 3-0 Sheffield United – scorers – Braithwaite, Flint, Downing



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