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Rovers 0 Middlesbrough 4


Alan75
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Match Report by Scotty

The only change from our last game was a surprising one - Reid in for Jansen. This forced a reshuffle with Emerton playing on the left and Reid taking Emerton's position on the right. The one thing I couldn't work out was why Short was on the bench. If you're fit enough to be sub surely you're fit enough to start, and Short should start every game he can.

Anyway, we started with more or less the same formation as we played against Villa, except that Djorkaeff was maybe pushed a bit further forward today. Boro lined up like-for-like, playing JFH up front on his own.

The first half was just a battle. Both teams cancelled each other out, Boro showed no ambition at all and we weren't much better, and both teams were guilty of making late tackles and leaving a foot in. In what was a niggly first half, it became clear fairly early on that someone might get sent off, and Tugay duely did.

In the book of stupid sending offs, Tugay's name has got to be close to the top. His first booking was for a needless deliberate handball - his second was for a ridiculous two-footed lunge. Both cards were fully deserved. He cost us the game.

Almost immediately Boro looked more threatening but we kept them out until half time. There's the old cliche in football that it's hard to play against ten men - not aginst Rovers it isn't. We were simply pathetic in the second half.

Boro changed things tactically at half time. They replaced a full back with a striker and switched to 3-5-2, with their wide men almost playing up front in what was virtually a 3-3-4. It paid off immediately.

Boro's first goal, less than three minutes into the half, saw a good pass play JFH clean through with only Gray for company. If someone can explain to me why Gray, our left back, was the only player tracking Hasslebaink on the right side of the area then I'd appreciate it. Anyway, Jimmy turned Gray inside out and scored like the class striker he is.

A few minutes later the second goal came. Amoruso carelessly gave the ball away, Boro carved our defence open straight down the middle, and Boeteng scored his first goal for Boro. It was that easy.

Before we'd really taken it all in Boro got a third. A good cross from their left saw JFH react quicker than any of our defence to pounce at our near post.

Djorkaeff had a chance in between Boro's second and third goals, and he also had a goal rightly ruled out for offside after Boro's third goal, but we never really looked like getting back into the game and were soundly beaten in the end. Hasslebaink's hat-trick goal in the dying minutes confirmed it - and also confirmed what a class striker he is.

We were solid in the first half and the game had 0-0 written all over it until the sending off, but we were awful after that. Our midfield failed to close down, our defence looked completely unorganised, and our forwards failed to hold the ball up and retain possession. We showed no fight, no passion, no pride, and no organisation at all in the second half and we were nothing short of pathetic.

Our back four were awful again. Amoruso and Matteo have to be far and away the worst centre back partnership in the Premiership. They'd struggle in the Championship to be honest. Neill is just awful, as ever. Gray looks a threat going forward but gets caught out at the back too often.

The biggest problem I feel though is in midfield. A central midfield of Ferguson, Tugay and Djorkaeff are just not competitive enough. None of them can tackle and, as good as they may be on the ball, that's not much use when the opposition have it. I thought Ferguson flattered to deceive today. He showed good touches and played some good passes but he didn't track back or cover like a proper central midfielder should. Djorkaeff was class when he had the ball but anonymous when he hadn't, and the less said about Tugay the better.

I'm surprised to see the general slating of Reid's performance today. I thought he did well and was probably man of the match. He was easily our most competitive midfielder and he frequently left his right wing to cover for the inadequacies of his fellow midfielders. I also thought he looked composed on the ball and provided most of the little drive and determination we had. Emerton was again one of our better players but he lacked the sharpness he's shown in the last few games.

Up front, I thought Dickov was fairly awful. His first touch was diabolical today and Southgate marked him out of the match easily. Stead came on and looked slightly better but Boro were going through the motions by then.

All in all we were shocking today in the second half. But we've got to remember that we had a man sent off and, before that, we looked at least the equal of Boro. Also we had some key men away on international duty which won't have helped. However, there's some obvious problems defensively throughout the team, but Short coming back and Flitcroft coming in for the suspended Tugay should help.

Sadly, our next two fixtures aren't exactly encouraging. We've got big problems and I suspect we're going to be scrapping down at the bottom for most of the season. Whether we can climb up the table depends on what our manager can do during the January transfer window.

Rovers : Friedel, Neill, Amoruso (Short 63), Matteo, Gray, Emerton, Ferguson, Tugay, Reid, Djorkaeff (Jansen 78), Dickov (Stead 60).

Subs Not Used: Pedersen, Enckelman.

Red card : Tugay (30).

Yellow card : Matteo.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, McMahon, Riggott, Southgate, Parnaby (Nemeth 45), Mendieta (Morrison 80), Parlour, Boateng, Zenden, Downing, Hasselbaink.

Subs Not Used: Ehiogu, Bates, Nash.

Yellow card: McMahon.

Goals: Hasselbaink 46, Boateng 50, Hasselbaink 57, 90.

Attendance : 20,385

Ref: M Riley

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