I nearly didn’t make this match. On the Thursday preceding I had a dose of what’s colloquially known as “man flu” these days but with the addition of a cluster headache to wake up to. By Friday my throat was so sore I could barely talk, let alone shout, and I was sweating like a mouthy Palace fan at the end of Coward’s Walk.
Fortunately by Saturday I was about 70% human and I passed a late fitness test by taking The Boy to football training and tidying the house on my return. I was nearly metaphorically injured in the warm up but I’ll come back to that at the end.
A seamless journey to the Amex for a change was perhaps the one thing that went right all day. I got a pint and checked the team news. Once again Ulloa up front on his own. Once again no start for Lua Lua. The thing is, if you want to make it more attacking, you probably have to play Buckley and Lua Lua wide and Lingard in behind Ulloa. That only leaves you March and Rodriguez to come in if, say, Buckley’s hamstrings go again. My late January post was wrong. We are under resourced for this division, though in my defence I had expected Rodriguez to be our first true “Oscar” player and for one of CMS or Hoskins to be back. So we’re paying strikers. We just can’t use them.
Where do I start with the game? We started brightly enough, earning several corners, one as a result of a brilliant save from a scuffed Spanish Dave point blank shot after good work from Buckley. Another time Lingard broke with pace to set Ulloa away on the break but he elected to shoot straight at the keeper. Boro on their occasional forays in to our territory showed a willingness to shoot from anywhere that was keeping PIG busy, if not exactly at full stretch. And then the inexplicable happened.
On 33 minutes Buckley went off injured. Let’s play guess the injury. Twisted foot? Nope. Cut knee? Not on your nelly. Slight scarring to the shoulder blade? Wrong. Chickenpox? Not even close. What’s that you say? Hamstring? Don’t be bloody ridiculous. Of course it was his hamstring. As predictable as the half time music.
So we stuck Lua Lua on right? WRONG! We put Spanish Dave, who up to then had been doing alright in a more central role, out to the right and brought on Forster-Caskey to have yet another average game in the middle. Almost instantly the back passes started coming, more and more, and not of any quality. PIG who is to kicking what I am dieting twice looked like he was about to let in a soft own goal as he struggled for the angles being created by the outfield players.
Over and over again we passed across the midfield and then back to the keeper. In fact after the game I got this tweet from one of the writers from Reading’s Tilehurst End showing exactly what our problem is, as if we didn’t all know. Obsessed with attacking football my arse.
— Andy Walker (@andywalker1871) March 29, 2014
All Boro had to do was sit back and make something of their own occasional attacks. Up to half time these were fairly tame. The game was looking nailed on 0-0.
If only. Newport at home this season. Barnsley at home this season. Palace at home (well, the last 70 minutes) the first season we moved in and the second half of this game are all competing for the worst football from us seen at the Amex. The second half yesterday may even win due to its comedy element and tragic outcome. Shakespeare would have loved us.
We gifted Boro a goal. I don’t mean we sat off them, I mean we went shopping, found the nicest present in the store and spent half an hour gift wrapping it, a bit like Rowan Atkinson’s smarmy shop assistant in Love Actually. Pretty fucking bows and everything. And who was the main culprit? Greer. “Here, have this beautifully giftwrapped ball with pretty fucking bows and everything. Feel free to score from three yards.”
We didn’t look like getting back in to it and then, out of nowhere we got a penalty as a result of Boro’s only defensive lapse of the day. I honestly thought Leadbitter was going to have a coronary as the ref pointed to the spot. Or cry. He needn’t have worried. None of our players wanted to take it. Not one. IT’S OUR BIG CHANCE TO GET BACK IN THE GAME FFS AND YOU STAND AROUND LIKE THE OPPOSITE OF MY SON’S UNDER SEVENS ARGUING ABOUT WHO’S NOT GOING TO TAKE IT.
Ulloa stepped up reluctantly. It missed by so much it was still going up as we left. Reports of a cabbage patch in Durrington destroyed by football may, or may not be true.
There was still time for Boro to score a second, one that looked suspiciously offside with the naked eye, though I’d like to see it back. It didn’t matter. The plain fact is we could play on till Wednesday and not score. We’d just pass it back to the keeper. Or spend as long arguing over who wan’t taking a free kick as we did the penalty. Agh.
A quick word on the Middleborough fans. Having clashed keyboards with Sheffield Wednesday fans in the week I have to praise these. Over 900 down when their side had no form and nothing to play for and they made a noise too. If you’re looking for an example of proper fans these are some of them.
Afterwards I decamped to the West Lower where we once again exchanged rants. On NSC in the week I had offered to drink a pint of Fosters if we won 5-0. I had to anyway. They’d run out of decent ale by 5.10.
When I finally got in my wife was wearing that “you’re going to be fucking divorced by Tuesday you scumbag” look. It turns out as soon as I left that my three year old daughter, known as the Whirlwind, had painted the bathroom floor with mint flavoured hand soap. This, my wife had discovered by going to see what she was up to and slipping arse over tit on to an already injured back. “I thought about phoning and getting you to come back but it’s slowly getting better” she told me mournfully. I wish she had.