13th December – Boro add to Rams away day blues as Bamford proves a point
Middlesbrough 2 Derby County 0
Patrick Bamford 6 Ryan Shotton sent off 62
Grant Leadbitter 63 (pen)
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka became the second manager in short order to praise Derby County as the best team in the league immediately after his own team had just easily beaten us 2-0.
Like Neil Redfearn after Leeds had turned us over Jose Mourinho’s former assistant praised the Rams while basking in a well deserved win that knocked us off the top of the league in a morning kick off that did not get the weekend off to a flying start.
We were poor in this game, poor in so many areas and got exactly what we deserved from a vigorous and committed Boro. Of the players in the white shirts only Lee Grant and Johnny Russell can come out with any credit at all.
The fit again skipper Richard Keogh returned to the team with Jake Buxton dropping to the bench. Bucko gave a confident performance against an admittedly poor Brighton team last week and was a little unlucky to step down. Whether he would have made any difference to this defeat is unlikely though as we were being outgunned in all areas of the pitch throughout.
Much of the media coverage in the lead up to this game featured Patrick Bamford. He is an interesting footballer and not apparently victim to periods of crushing self doubt.
It was illuminating to read some of his comments after this game, referring to wanting to prove to us that he was not a “softy”, comments that shed just a little more light on why he was suited up in a red shirt for this game rather than a white one.
Despite his goals for us last season Bamford was always a player that generated lukewarm affection at best. Maybe this was an understandable hangover from his Forest roots, maybe because sometimes he appeared less than truly committed to the team ethic, whatever the reason it was not a total surprise to see him rock up at Middlesbrough rather than back at Derby as the season began though this may have had as much to do with our unwillingness to play him in his preferred central striking position rather than out wide.
He was certainly on a mission, scoring while criminally unmarked in our penalty area after only 6 minutes and then drawing a foul from last man Ryan Shotton as he prepared to fire on goal in the 63rd minute, leading to the defender’s dismissal and Grant Leadbitter’s goal from the spot.
Were it not for some fine saves from Lee Grant we could have been hammered 3-0, 4-0 in this game and apart from a tame Jeff Hendrick effort after some good Johnny Russell work in the first half and an excellent save from a Craig Bryson shot as the game drew to a close we never really worried the hosts.
They surrendered the ball and pressed us keeping players behind the ball – this is something we do not seem to be able to cope with and teams will increasingly exploit this weakness if we do not solve it quick sharp.
Steve McClaren rolled the dice at half time throwing on Leon Best as well as Jordan Ibe but the big loanee from Blackburn had minimal effect in the new formation as Boro continued to control and dominate us.
The last time we won at Boro, 15th January 2000 when Malcolm Christie scored twice in a 4-1 win. My abiding memory of that game is the Radio Derby interview with Jim Smith where he as much as admits that he had intended to select Marvin Robinson but picked Malcolm accidentally…..
Eight defeats and one solitary draw in our visits to the Riverside since that win make it one of the most miserable of away visits, curious considering that the Riverside and Pride Park are identical you would imagine we would at least feel at home.
Four defeats in our last eight games leaves an uneasy feeling, as does seeing us drop from top to third because of this defeat. A joust with the best team in the Premiership next as Chelsea come to town for the quarter final of the league cup and then a very important game (aren’t they all?) against Norwich City next Saturday lunchtime.
Not much time then for the coaching staff to try and put things right as the hectic Christmas schedule hoves into view, there is lots to play for and we have some thinking to do….