Defeat But No Watford Gap in Class
By Rob Nichols
Saturday 12 Sep 2020 15:38:00
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It was a first match defeat for Boro but there was little to choose between the Premier drop outs and Championship relegation escapees in the 1-0 loss. A defensive lapse by new centre back Grant Hall allowed space for Watford's Craig Cathcart to smash the ball home from a corner. For all their good work Boro could not cancel out that first half headed goal and had to settle for defeat at Vicarage Road.

Boro started the Championship ball rolling away at newly relegated Watford in front of the Sky cameras but an empty Vicarage Road on Friday evening. The Hornets had their team decimated by injuries and yet under new boss Vladimir Ivic they still put out a side with a mixture of experience and youthful potential but crucially really well organised. In the first half that meant they had the edge through the middle, in the second period with Boro pressing for an equaliser the home side had the edge defensively.

Neil Warnock was not overly discouraged by a defeat to start the campaign. The main worry was failure to chalk up a goal again, long the problem for Middlesbrough sides. Both Britt and Ashley Fletcher did battle hard but were probably starved of good passes and also crowded out by a well marshalled Hornets defence. The man entrusted to make openings, Tavernier, did make a number of good centres, largely from set-pieces but Boro couldn't convert. Perhaps the best chance of all was for Grant Hall to redeem himself but he hit the ball over the bar from a corner.

Warnock rightly pointed out that apart from picking the ball out of the back of his net, new loan signing Marcus Bettinelli had little to do. Perhaps Watford didn't need to do too much because although Boro had the lion share of possession we failed to hurt the home side too much. Britt forced Foster into a save from a narrow angle after nice build up between the skipper and his strike partner Fletcher. Fletcher himself lobbed his defender and stretched beyond the defence before striking straight into the ex England keeper's arms. There were a couple of pinball situations in the Hornets box before Britt forced Foster to tip over from a free kick. But despite having a lot of set-piece situations we failed to convert.

Boro will need to find more creative cut and thrust through from midfield. Djed Spence did show some potential here for quickly getting on the front foot down the right but Marvin Johnson was quite closely shackled down the left. The addition of a fully fit Coulson could provide extra speed of attack for Warnock, hopefully Hayden Coulson will get a run out on Tuesday v Barnsley.

Back to the Watford game and in many respects it was a steady start for Boro but crucially no points. A win-less start to the season is something we have experienced so many times over the years. But one recent tradition we need to quickly shake off next week is not losing our home games. Obviously the cup victory against Shrewsbury has seen us get off the mark at the Riverside this calendar year but we need to make our mark in the League. A first victory will not be easy against another relegated side, Bournemouth.

So, the season starts with a defeat. Watford had a much reduced starting eleven and yet there was still plenty of experience, epitomised by Craig Cathcart whose telling, twisting run and thunderous header separated the teams at the finish. Disappointing then for Boro fans but hardly the end of the world. Lets hope the addition of Sam Morsy will add to our midfield press and allow us to start bagging points in the many games in the crowded fixture list ahead.

Watford 0-1 Middlesbrough

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