Our first league game, away at Millwall, is only 24 days away. Millwall is always a daunting place to go, you know exactly what type of game you’re in for. But given how rusty and sluggish we looked last night, then there is an awful lot of work to do in the next three weeks.
Boro started with Randolph in goal, a back 4 of Shotton, Flint, Fry and Gibson, a middle three of McNair, Clayton and Howson and a forward three of Bamford, Traore and Gestede.
It was a typical friendly against lower league opposition with the most important thing being getting some game time and match fitness.
So how did we really do?
Randolph had nothing to do but looked his usual self. Was strange to see Gibbo at left back and it didn’t seem to work. Aden Flint is a colossus. Strong in the air, decent on the ground, very vocal, an inposing figure who looked at home straight away.
Dael Fry alongside him was reliable as ever, not that they were tested much. Ryan Shotton on this showing isn’t a right back. Defensively weak, poor distribution and just not at the races. Lets hope it was just a bad day at the office.
In the middle, Paddy McNair is a real box to box player. Spent most of the half as the holding midfielder (yes, further back than Clayts!!) but made some strong runs forward. It was McNair who was brought down for Boro’s pen.
Howson didn’t seem to get involved, the half seemed to pass him by. I remember him having a very slow start to last season, took him a dozen or so games to find his feet. Clayton, with his new top knot, had a steady game.
And up front, our problem area. Bamford scored the pen, had some neat touches and floated round like he does. Adama, to me has gone backwards over the summer. He offered precious little cover for Shotton, which may explain Ryan’s poor display.
He drifted infield a lot, tried a few of his runs but forgot to pass or shoot at the end of it. And then there was Gestede. Where do I start? Lazy, ineffective, no impact, no threat, didn’t hold the ball up… I could go on.
I was hoping for improvement in the second half. Changes at the break and a few more early in the half didn’t help. We looked disjointed and shapeless.
The team that played most of the second half was: Dimi, McNair, Flint, Shotton, Johnson, de Sart, Leadbitter, Fry, Wing, Fletcher, Assombolonga.
As with Randolph, Dimi had nothing to do, but it was good to see the big fella back in a Boro shirt. However, he is 40 in a couple of months.
Flint and Shotton were the centre back partnership and looked solid without ever being threatened.
Dael Fry seemed to play in front of them in the holding role, not sure that worked. Or was it a sort of back 3, with McNair and Johnson as wing backs?
Anyway, McNair was wasted in that position. Marvin Johnson was one of the few who impressed me. He seemed really up for it. Always available, calling for the ball, quick on the break and lively.
Leadbitter does what Leadbitter does, slows the game down, sideways movement and passes. Surely we have better midfielders at the club and he will be allowed to leave.
Lewis Wing seems to have benefitted from his loan spell at Yeovil. Looked sharp, keen and hungry.
It’s good to see a player wanting to push on and impress the manager.
Julian de Sart played. Had a couple of good touches but was instantly forgettable. Need to see more of him to be sure.
Ashley Fletcher was full of running and tried hard, but like Gestede, he’s very lightweight for a big man.
Britt scored one, missed a couple was caught offside a few times but generally seemed disinterested. Not promising.
As far as I know, only Fabio of the players that travelled didn’t get a kick.
No sign of Ayala (getting treatment at Rockcliffe??) Friend and Downing. Didn’t see Marcus Tavernier either. Had high hopes for him this season.
And what about the boss. Tony actually sat in the dug out for the full 90 minutes!
No jumping up and down, no kicking every ball, no berating the ref! However, some things don’t change. He was still heard shouting “Adama, Adama”, “Adama, get wide”
“Adama, Get wide!”
I know its very early in pre-season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least four or five ins and outs. On this showing, I think we need them.