What Now After Swansea Stalemate?
By Robert Nichols
Monday 24 Sep 2018 11:25:00
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Boro retained their unbeaten home record but it was a goalless draw at the Riverside on Saturday as the hosts and visitors, Swansea City, cancelled each other out. It left the crowd frustrated as the team is finding hard of late to put the ball in the back of the net. With Leeds and Brentford falling to defeats a win would have been blasted us to the top. But we remain unbeaten at home and who is to say that every single point won't be a precious one in the final reckoning?

Boro struggled to break down another well organised visiting team in Swansea City. On Wednesday night George Saville broke the deadlock with a clinical finish and at the weekend the box to box midfielder was not afraid to shoot at the Swans goal. In fact there was a shoot on sight policy from many Boro forwards but the vital spark was missing all too often as we found it hard to unlock the defences.

Boro no longer seem to have that edge in fitness that saw us collect so many late goals in the early encounters of the season. We all know that we lack pace and width. Yet even so Ryan Shotton carved the Swans open with a late cross that bisected the defence but also just evaded our strikeforce also.

Martin Braithwaite has disappointed since the transfer window. He is still trying hard but has somehow lost sharpness in mind and body, no longer thinking ahead and skipping beyond opponents.We need the extra quality our World Cup forward brings us.

We cannot expect 34 year old Stewart Downing to provide all the answers, especially not for two games a week. Saville and Mo Besic are still feeling their way into the set up. Besic is still getting up to match fitness and so the two are sharing a team position at present.

The same could possibly apply to Sam McQueen who is probably trying too hard in his late cameo appearances. Perfectly understandable.

Tuesday night's League Cup game at Preston could provide a platform for one or two that have slipped beyond the League radar to post reminders. Can Tavernier or Harrison Chapman show what extra attributes they might offer? Direct pace or creative, cutting edge from the pair could encourage Tony Pulis to free up a place on the Championship bench.

Then there is Lewis Wing, the ability to pick a lock with an unexpected pass or switch in play was central to our early season successes. Could it be a good time to review a recall from the former Shildon player?

But all in all though I cannot agree with those panicking. It was solidity and being difficult to beat that provided the platform for Cardiff's promotion last season as it has been for at least one automatic promotion winner every season I can think of.

For those that are bemoaning the lack of entertainment, yes we are struggling to create that is true. But there have already been plenty of entertaining matches this season. Even the 0-0 at Leeds was like two heavy weights going toe to toe, a fascinating contest in the gladiator's arena of Elland Road.

I really don't think this is a result of Tony Pulis tactics, other than he is trying to juggle players and tactics to counteract our lack of pace and width in the squad. These were transfer window failings that he alerted us to time and again before the window closed. Mind you, as a club we are not prepared to be hostage to agents and that has to be something to be applauded. We don't want to be seeing our hard-earned ticket money swallowed up by an unscrupulous agent's back pocket.

Surely we must stay with it now and look ahead to a week where fringe players can step into the spotlight and make a big impact at Preston and press for inclusion at Hull City away.

The Championship season is a long, long, twisting road as next week's midweek marathon to Ipswich Town shows only too well. The whole Boro world could be turned upside down and inside out by the time we face our old minder, Aitor in a couple of weeks. There are so many miles to be covered, so many games to be played. In so short a period of time.

The immediate task is to get back to winning ways. We need to grab a good few points on our travels before we look to retain our unbeaten record at home v Forest.

There are a lot of points to be competed for before the next international break in October. We need to not look too far ahead but keep on keeping on before that break and ensuring we stay well in the frame.

Hopefully, we are top of the league next Saturday tea time on the Humber and things are looking up for the Boro. Onwards and cupwards to Preston.



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