Boro 2-1 Palace
Yeah yeah, we lost again, but my word was it a huge improvement on Tuesday night. Two more errors saw us slip two goals behind but a fantastic response from Palace saw us dominate the final third of the match and only a fantastic stop from Steele and two last ditch blocks prevented us from taking a point, or more, back to London.
As the half time whistle blew, finding us somehow only 1-0 down, I was genuinely starting to fear for the Doog. We were on for another hiding. Then an early second half goal compounds these fears, only for Palace to turn up for the first time this season and almost nick a point.
The new signings
All three of our new signings were on display. How did they get on?
Yannick Bolasie: Quick, strong, good in the air and natural width. Having the pace of Zaha on one flank and the pace of Bolasie on the other means that teams cannot just shut down Zaha and, in turn, shut down our entire attacking threat. The team looked more balanced with him and he put in a pretty decent shift. He is still raw and occasionally made the wrong decision, but playing time should iron out these creases. A good addition to the team.
Darcy Blake: much like the team, it was a game of two halves for Darcy. A shocking first half and a fantastic second half. He was skinned constantly in the first and practically impassable in the second. Likes to put in a tackle which is something we have missed and I expect that he will quickly become a fans favourite. Another tidy addition.
Andre Moritz: this man is an absolute baller! How have we managed to get him on a free? From his first touch you can tell that he is class and he drove us forward time and time again and twice came close to scoring on his debut. I don't want to get too carried away until I have seen him play a few more games but I sambaring as I write.
Speroni and the cursed beard
I do not want to be stoking the drop Speroni fires. Anyone who thinks that he should be dropped after a couple of bad games is totally off their rocker. However, he was partly to blame for both goals yesterday.
He should have come for the corner for the first goal. He cannot let a ball drop in his six yard box, criminal goal keeping. As for the second goal, he simply should not be getting beat at his near post from that angle.
In his defence, not coming for the corner most certainly breeds from having an unfamiliar defence in front of him and if the wall didn't part like the red sea then it would have done its job and blocked the shot. Further, he made great saves from Miller and Zemmama thus keeping us in the game.
How can this completely out of character dip in form be explained? It has to be the beard! If he shaves it off, I guarantee the mistakes will cease.
Julian, if you are going to grow hair, it must only be a ponytail.
Man of the Match: Andre Moritz
For the first time this season we could actually make substitutions that could affect the game. No offence meant towards David Wright, but he is no Brazilian. From Moritz’s first touch you could tell that the man is class. I am getting nervous little butterflies just thinking about what he can do this season.
His control, movement, passing and creativity baffled the home side as he singlehandedly turned the game on its head. His vision pulled and passing range saw us utilize every player that was moving forward meaning that we created more chances in the last fifteen minutes than we did from January to May.
Once he is Dougie Freedman fit I do believe that he is going to take the Championship by storm.
The Match – First Half
After the ridiculously long drive (a huge thanks to Carl for driving), through intermittent torrential downpours and blazing sunshine, we arrive with enough time for a Balti Pie and a chat with the very tired looking HF drummer about t shirts and ridiculous “Red Faction” displays.
With the line ups announced there is a little debate around who is going to play right back and as the players take their positions, it becomes clear that Blake will be taking place of the dropped Joel Ward. Moxey and Wilbraham also drop to the bench, with Bolasie and Easter replacing them.
“Dougie Freedman’s Red n Blue Army” gets us underway in the stands and on the field Bolasie climbs highest to win a flick on from a long ball... that is one part of his game that no Bristol City fan told us about.
Middlesbrough are playing a very direct style of football, which is a polite way of saying long ball, and with the wind thrown into the mix, Ramage and Martin are struggling with the high balls. Miller is already thriving on the service, dominating Ramage in the process.
Boro wastes a good crossing opportunity and a Blake shot from range is blocked before the home side wastes a glorious chance. A pinpoint cross lays a goal on the plate only for the header to hit the post when scoring seemed easier. “Get into ‘em. Fuck ‘em up” roars around the away end but Boro continues to cause problems.
This is not to say that we are not getting forward. Bolasie is proving to be useful as relieving pressure as his dribble success rate is very wise as he possesses the strength to hold players off, however, the movement up top is, as per usual, nonexistent and we simply do not look like scoring.
Speroni handles one of the worst back passes you are likely to see by clearing on the volley before Bolasie again gets down the flank only for his cross to flash across the face with Easter trailing twenty yards behind the ball.
Boro then has another fantastic chance to score as Miller is released one on one but just as he is about to pull the trigger Martin comes out of nowhere to put in a goal saving tackle. Great stuff, however, everyone stands and admires, Boro takes a quick short corner and everyone, with the exception of KG, watches as a shot blazes just over Speroni’s bar. This sleepy nature continues as Ramage and Blake are both caught in possession one after the other and both are just about strong enough to win the ball back.
Zaha and Blake both have harmless crosses claimed by Steele before Jedinak basically beats up Reach. Reach tries to knock and run Jedinak towards the by-line but Mile uses his shoulder once to knock him of balance and twice to send him flying over the advertising hoardings and flying into a metal poll. Weirdly the ref comes over to Jedinak and has a word, but his actions were all fair... although the second shoulder barge was totally unnecessary yet 100% awesome.
Fifteen minutes in and Ramage is looking all at see as Miller, making his debut for the home team, continues to pull him from pillar to post. He is getting sucked out of position on a regular basis and the cover is far from adequate, allowing Middlesbrough to look better than they probably are.
Again, down the other end of the field we are finding a little joy in and around the box but the final ball is always disappointing. Garvan is finding pockets of space behind the defence but is again stifled when he is on the ball by the lack of meaningful movement ahead of him.
Zaha decides to take matters into his own hands and skips around two into the area only to be stopped by a big tackle in the box. The away end sing his name as I am trying to look up odds of us winning a penalty as if they are prepared to tackle like that in the box, we are bound to win one.
Back into our half again and Parr is asleep as a quick throw is taken allowing another shot on goal which Jules has to push aside for a corner. Again we struggle with the set piece and another corner is one and, hallelujah, it flies to the back stick and we manage to clear through Ramage. It’s a start!!!
“Red N Blue Army” is disturbed by Friend turning Blake inside out on the flank before shooting across the face of our goal. This is about as bad as Blake’s first half gets. “Come on Palace” pleads the away end. The pleading does not work as two more crosses fly in and another shot flies wide as Boro start to turn the screw.
There is a brief reprieve as a Garvan free kick is headed over by Ramage as “Boys from SE25” starts to pick up only for two more Boro shots to just clear Speroni’s bar as we just cannot get a hold on the ball.
A brief flurry of blocked shots occur for both teams before Bolasie shows his vision with a great diagonal ball to Easter but Jermaine’s first touch is poor and he is pushed wide where he wins a corner. A Zaha shot is blocked as the corner is half cleared and from the resulting break Boro wins a corner, as Speroni brilliantly denies a vicious swerving effort, and take the lead.
The ball is whipped into the near post where Miller gets the slightest of glances and the ball hits the back of Hines’ legs and into the net.
Zaha then talks himself into a booking after being called up for a foul, although in fairness to him it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. “Dirty Northern Bastards” takes us through to half time where Freedman has a big talk to give.
The Match – Second Half
The teams come back onto the field to Seven Nation Army which we all hope is a sign. An early corner and more awkward looking defending suggests that it may not be the sign we were looking for.
The first time we do get to break in the second half, Jedinak picks the wrong pass as he goes right when a simple pass to the left would have put Bolasie through on goal. Then we are on the back foot again as Zemmama cuts inside and forces Speroni into another excellent save, tipping the ball out of the top corner and over the bar.
The referee shows some great consistency as Zaha is fouled, the Boro player moans but does not get booked... so why was Zaha booked for moaning yet this guy not? Oh, because this is Mr Coote and he hates Palace. Remember Leeds at home last season? Sent Scannell off in the first half. The man is an absolute bell end.
A soft free kick is then awarded against Jedinak and as quick as that it is 2-0. Zemmama curls a shot straight through the wall and into the near corner and groans fill the away end.
Speroni keeps the scoreline down as he produced a double save and Boro are all over us. Something has to change.
However, before Freedman can act (and he does), our luck changes! As in our first three games of the season, a penalty kick is awarded for a foul on Easter and he gets up to slam the ball down the middle for 2-1.
All of a sudden, Boro are nervous and we look like a completely different team. Zaha slots a great pass to Blake on the overlap and he plays to KG who finds Garvan but his cross is cleared. Zaha is then fouled and Garvan shoots into the wall and his follow up shot is flicked goalwards by Martin only for a great block from the defender preventing a certain goal.
KG is then replaced from Moritz and the most impressive of the three debuts arrives. His impact is immediate as he spreads the ball beautifully to Bolasie, the cross is beautiful and Easter has a great chance to convert at the near post, he fluffs his shot and it falls to an onrushing Moritz who hits the target but his shot is saved.
Zaha is now rampant and beats three before he is finally tackled and only a Miller shot over from range breaks up the Palace dominance. “When I Was a Young Boy” is loud with the now buoyant away end as an injured Easter is replaced by Appiah.
Moritz is now controlling the midfield, pulling all the strings every time we were on the ball and is getting our more dangerous players on the ball as much as he can. What a player he can become for Palace! (note: I am trying to not get too excited but I can’t help it)
The equaliser is then a whisker away. Jedinak dinks a beautiful little pass into Moritz who shows that he can pass with his head better than most players can pass with their feet as he nods the ball down to Appiah. Is his first goal here? No. A fantastic save from Steele stops the ex Margate man but the rebound falls to Moritz and only another great Boro blocks prevents an equaliser.
Miller is replaced and relief is the feeling in the away end. That man is a beast. Would love to have him up front!
Zaha looks to slot Appiah through and his pass is perfect, however, Appiah leaves the ball behind and then Moritz sees a shot that deflects wide for a corner. We take it short and Zaha is fouled. The Boro player kicks the ball away and unsurprisingly doesn’t get booked. Bolasie over cooks the free kick and Boro start to try and time waste at every opportunity. This is the end for Bolasie as he is replaced by Moxey.
Speroni tips over long range effort from Leadbitter and then makes a routine save from the half cleared corner. “Famous Red N Blue” is the song of choice and now Zaha is running rings around the Boro defenders, however, his final pass is literally a millimetre too long for Moritz as the Brazilian can only get a toe onto the ball and it flies out for a goal kick.
More time wasting is taking place and Appiah decides to put an end to it by sprinting all over the back line in an attempt to pressure a mistake.
The game is slipping away as we enter the last five minutes and the home side are trying to hold on to the ball at all costs. Finally we get a shot on goal as the Boro back line allows the ball to bounce and Moxey takes advantage, but his shot is blocked (blocked shots clearly being a common theme in this match) and as four minutes of stoppage time is announced the fans show their appreciation for the second half efforts with “One Dougie Freedman”.
We fashion one last half chance as Zaha runs from the half way line only to produce a weak effort at the end of the run with a shot straight at the keeper.
The players get a huge ovation from the small travelling support at the whistle with a chorus of we love you and it is not lost on the players. The entire 18 man playing squad comes over and applauds and Dougie Freedman is also at the party.
The new signings have impressed and the attacking football was much much better. If we can cut the individual errors out, we will start to win games I am sure. Keep the faith. The results are coming.