Thanks DB for the report been away so didn't see the game only the highlights. It seems the Wilder ball malaise from Derby carried over. I admire SJ's determination to play his way but he has to realise that in the short term he doesn't have the tools to do the job. You're not going to get results on a cold wet night away to Boro with Fleck and Norwood as two holding midfielders. We fail again against a team of umper lumpers as we will continue to fail unless we start to use the squad more for specific games. Press the Blades high up the pitch and it makes Norwood redundant. Its a simple tactic yet we continue to fall for it.Ratings:
Olsen 6/10 – Not been a convincing start at all for him since he has come in I have felt but suppose he had little chance with two good shots first half. His kicking and distribution is good and clearly decent with the ball at his feet. Probably wondering what is happening with the defence in front of him all over the place. Made a few routine saves 2nd half but actually did not have too much to do but still was busier than their keeper who made one save all game.
Baldock 5/10 – Had a really going over down that side from Bola who beat him a few times. Nowhere near close enough at times and we saw this on the goal. Good ball to Ndiaye for the chance but overall, not sure he did enough to stop his man who continued to cause him problems. He did get a bit tighter second half but attacking wise we saw very little when he did get forward. Ended up in a skirmish with their forward which saw the Boro player a tad fortunate to stay on.
Stevens 5/10 – Started ok and was well forward and involved. Awful tackle and got booked. Started to struggle a bit after this defensively but most Boro attacks went down the other wide. He became less and less involved attacking wise and then gave another daft foul away. Maybe not fully match fit as he came off on 68 minutes.
Davies 5/10 – Gave it away first few minutes and had to recover it and and on the goal was a long way off his man even if it was a good striker. Just felt we looked really soft down the middle and him and Egan to say they were only playing one out and out striker did not impose themselves. The ball stuck up the top of the pitch too easily. Even 2nd half they had a few breaks and we were too slow to react or cover across. I saw some raving about him at the weekend. He is sloppy and weak for me for all the ball playing skills he may have. We need more solid defensive work and at the moment we are soft down the middle.
Egan 5/10 – They had too many decent balls coming in that we did not deal with. It was too easy as we could not impose ourselves. The 2nd goal was poor as he did not do enough to stop the man controlling it and playing it back. Just too easy. One header from a corner that came back across was the sum of his attacking efforts from set play although these were poor. Towards the end got beat for skill near the corner and also, I felt they managed to get in front of the centre backs way too easy all game to help keep the ball.
Norwood 3.5/10 – Thought he was not at it. Lost the ball, got outmuscled and then when he had it was not very effective. Wayward free kick over the bar and just seemed a long way off where he needed to be. Our midfield had lots of nice little passes but went nowhere. One decent pass to Norwood was all I really recall him doing well. Him or Fleck could have gone at half time as we lacked no penetration, lost the tackles and then when we had it were loose with it. Had a good game Saturday but was completely ineffective tonight.
Fleck 4/10 – Like Norwood thought he was off the pace of the game and got outmuscled and harried it off it. He had one decent run early on but mostly it was short, poor passes or bad touches and not sure enough with possession. We did not quite win enough of the loose stuff and felt desire wise they wanted it more. We just got outmuscled. When we had it not sure any of the midfielders drew men or carried it forward or even played many positive forward passes. Was all sideways stuff. Second half he started fouling and was full stretch and not sure he influence the game at all. Lost count of the amount of loose stuff they came out with it and we never dictated this area of the field. Been better recently but off it completely tonight.
Osborn 6/10 – Thought along with Ndiaye, he was one of our better players to start the game and at least got in, was lively and trying to link. Not sure we saw much end product and twice he had it in good areas but took too long. He then started to give it away and on the 2nd was it his man he was not close enough to maybe? Kept plugging away and lots of effort and had the one shot when he was played in but was sent too wide. He never hides and ones of few who at least competed I felt.
Gibbs White 5/10 – Not a great game Saturday and tonight I thought he was off it again which is worrying after a good start. Did not seem to make much of an impact attacking sense and too many flicks and tricks did not come off. Not sure he was that involved at all and game just passed him by. Had one shot deflected wide but little really happened for him and even when he was on the ball, it sort of never really led to anything positive happening. He also does not get back and do the defensive stuff. Baldock was horribly exposed at times.
Ndiaye 6/10 – Our best player first half. One run where he was chopped down, a few other bits and pieces and then the outstanding chance with a lovely run across the line. He probably should have passed but it was a decent effort. He was the one player trying to run at them and make them have to turn. He continued to be a threat at times early part of 2nd half and was surprised he went off – seemed an odd sub as he had been our best player but I suppose he too had faded by the point. Miles better than many of the senior players alongside him.
Sharp 2.5/10 – Had a nightmare. Been one of our shining lights in the recent run but you do wonder whether he can do 2 games a week every week. Gave it away, was not the energetic self he has been and got outmuscled. Not sure anything came off for him at all. Other than one late hack from Bamba, the centre half completely outplayed him from start to finish. Did not hold it up, tossed it away and had one two poor efforts at goal. How he stayed on I am not sure?
McGoldrick 6/10 – Tried to get on it but not sure this change actually improved us and for me if anything he should have come on for Sharp. We seemed to lose our shape and there were big gaps in midfield and it became ragged. At least he tried to get involved. The game became scrappy and he was not really able to influence things. Did have one late decent shot but too often he slowed it down when he had it. Not sure where he fits in this side at all.
Norrington Davies – Tried to get down the left but still to see him properly beat his man or even really get to the byline. Defensively he struggles with pace/movement and we saw that a bit again when they broke. I expect Stevens to retain his place for a period now.
Hourihane - Came on and sent a corner behind. Barely saw him apart from that did little in the brief time he was on. Odd change. Surely, he needed McBurnie to give them something different to think about?
Jokanovic 4/10 – Some nice neat football but never really looked like scoring and the other end we gave away chances and goals. We looked like we lacked spark and I think on reflection he might have wished he had made more changes from the start. The midfield looked leggy and Sharp was wretched. Maybe he needed to use the squad more but easy to say in hindsight? The subs did not work and actually saw us look even less likely to score. I would have thrown McBurnie and Brewster on. They have not been great when they have played but Sharp and Gibbs White were not in the game. Try something different. Norrington Davies and Hourihane were just pointless changes and are not going to affect games particularly attacking wise I feel.
Middlesbrough – Warnock came in at the end of the 19-20 season and did what he normally does. He got them away from trouble and kept them up. Last season they flirted with the playoffs a few times but in the end finished mid table but had made progress despite him not having the funds/squad other Boro managers have had. Most fans seemed broadly in favour of him with his honest, no-nonsense approach and he got the best out of what he had. His penchant for bringing old players continued with lads from QPR/Rotherham/Cardiff (Lumley, Crooks, Bamba, Peltier) arriving and he has lost some talent going out the door. He also took a chance on players like Ikpeazu and Ameobi who had always showed promise but never really kicked on. Sporar and Payero are players that are not typical Warnock types but then he has had lads like that such as Taarabt at QPR. They started the season ok but have really trailed off and his rants against referee’s seem to be every week now. The fans seem a bit tired of the style of play and they do not seem to have a plan for the future with a mixture of experience players with a few young lads. I look at the side and I see a team that will do well to finish much higher than mid table. Maybe they will get rid of Warnock if they struggle but I actually think the type of player he has means it will be even harder if they move NW on as he is a motivator and man manager and many of these lads are not really going to do much better under another manager or really play a different type of style. McNair, Howson, Fry, Hall and Crooks are all the solid non nonsense players who are just steady Championship performers. I do not see them being anywhere near the bottom but lack the goals or quality to threaten the playoffs I feel.
Warnock will be 73 in a few months and clearly, he is not going to be around for long. Gibson does not seem to be throwing the cash like he was before and they seem to be stuck in a bit of a rut. Whenever I watch games, the crowds seem quite poor and they seem a long way from the side from 10-15 years ago that was a regular in the Premier League. Indeed, other than one season in 2016, they have been stuck in this league now for 12 years which seems remarkable as it does not seem long since they were in the top flight and sort of established back in Southgate and McClaren’s days.
Today they scored two good goals and at times looked dangerous. They won a lot of 50-50’s and competed well. They pressed us high when they could and even when we broke this, we normally ran out of ideas and they were then able to break. They kind of played like an away side but it worked as when they broke, they looked like scoring. Their physical players won the loose bits and pieces and the defence coped with our strikers fairly comfortably in the end. It was a routine win and they managed the second half easily. They have a lot of very ordinary players but were organised enough to see off our ‘nice but ineffectual’ football and the only real moments of quality in front of goal came from them (apart from the McGoldrick shot).
Opponent Man of the Match – Probably won 8 or 9 out of 11 battles and in the end you could take your pick. Samba got it and Bola was good down the left but I thought Watmore was the stand out on the field scoring a great goal and technically looking better than anything else out there.
Opponent Weak link – I thought the striker Sporar was not in it really and he was lucky not to get sent off for raising his head but the rest of the side were solid.
Referee/Officials – James Linington. Not a name I have heard of but been around the Football League for a while. From the Isle of Wight, so quite a trek for every game! Booked 6 players (4 for them and 2 for us). Most actually were bookings and he maybe even could have sent Sporar off for them and possibly Fleck for us – Stevens also got a bit daft after being booked. The game itself was easy to referee though. There was a possible offside on the 2nd goal but a lot happened after that. I am not sure there were any hugely significant decisions that changed the game. I saw some being critical of the referee but I am not sure he can be held responsible for our ineffectual play at both ends of the field.
Hourihane should have stated against Boro IMO and there is now a case for AG to come in and add some bite. The signs were there on Saturday as Derby won most of the second balls in the middle until they went down to 10 men. As others have said we need to preserve Sharp at 36 for games where he can make the most impact. Playing. the giants of Boro away wasn't one of them.
Saturday will be interesting as we'll be up against one of the best footballing sides in the division. Its an opportunity to play the Slav way. Fail against them and some players careers at SUFC may come to an end.
I've revised my prediction of an 8th placed finish down to 12th after 10 games. There will be many more games like Boro away to come until we address the lack of physicality in the team.