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Thread: United 1 Middlesbrough 0 - report

  1. #1
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    United 1 Middlesbrough 0 - report

    United got back to winning ways with a gutsy performance to see off fellow promotion challengers Middlesbrough. Richard Stearman was the unlikely hero coming off the bench to score a 2nd half header at the Kop End. Visitors Boro finished with 10 men with defender Daniel Ayala getting an early bath for two yellow cards. Despite the throwaway on Friday night at Villa; United actually saw this one out fairly comfortably. Dean Henderson did make some key saves when it mattered but overall after an even first half; United were the much better side in the 2nd half and deserved the victory.

    United knew they had to make one enforced change with Chris Basham suspended but had another decision to make with Jack O’Connell having a tight hamstring. In came Martin Cranie but more surprisingly Mark Duffy as United began with both Dowell and Duffy starting behind Sharp and the returning David McGoldrick with Madine back on the bench. Scott Hogan, Paul Coutts and Kean Bryan both were also named as substitutes. Middlesbrough went with one up top in Jordan Hugill preferred to the dangerous Britt Assombalonga. Former England international Stewart Downing was also on the bench.

    Boro began the game with 5 giants across the back line with two players in Friend and Shotton who have both played centre back before lining up either side of 3 other huge players in Fry, Ayala and Flint. They had the muscular and experience John Obi Mikel just in front of them.

    United started well and forced the visitors back. The formation seemed to shift from a 4 to a 3 in a rather fluid style but they seemed to have Dowell and Duffy playing just in front of Fleck and Norwood in an unusual shape. With such central players; United were able to control the ball and much of the early play. They had the first chance when Duffy hit a dipping shot from range that Randolph had to claw out of the top corner and Baldock could not turn the rebound home under the challenge of Friend.

    Flint had to go off with an injury after he had pulled up when racing back to knock the ball out under pressure from Sharp and his hamstring seemed to go. Downing came on and Boro looked to show more of an attacking threat.

    Shotton clumsily tripped up Dowell as he dropped his shoulder to beat his man and it was the first booking of the game.
    McGoldrick and Stevens lost the ball before Norwood pulled his man back for a yellow card as the ref evened things up. United had been the better side and McGoldrick nearly found Sharp with a low cross before the striker sliced over after he turned. Boro started to have more control with Mikel starting to get on the ball and the two wing backs moving forward. The long throw and a series of set plays saw them get it into United’s box but Henderson did well twice to punch clear.

    Then after a header dropped Hugill hit a shot that Henderson did well to push over after he sprang up to save to his left. The corner was cleared and then Baldock went down and could not carry on replaced by Stearman. Cranie went out to the right in another reshuffle for the Blades. The half ended with a smart Sharp turn and shot well saved.

    After the break, Wilder made a change immediately. Madine came on for Duffy and United started to get the ball forward quicker. Madine won two early headers and linked well with Sharp as United forced the visitors back. However, despite United’s quick start; Friend had a header cleared from Egan and then Downing hit a low shot that Henderson somehow scrambled clear. United went back down the other end and piled on the pressure. Two or three balls came in and Boro hacked clear and then Madine got goal side and seemed to be held but got his shot away that was saved from Randolph at close range as the striker appealed furiously.

    Ayala then chopped McGoldrick down who threatened to get in in goal after good build up and the centre back was given a yellow card. Norwood hit high and wide but the pressure continued. A cross field ball was smashed back from Madine and Sharp turned home but was rightly adjudged offside.

    Mikel then pulled back McGoldrick and the break through came from the resulting free kick. Norwood took it and it was a beauty and STEARMAN made it his with a determined header holding off his man who was stationery. It was a big goal and the experience defender celebrated wildly in front of the Kop.

    Only a few minutes later and Middlesbrough were reduced to 10 men. More decent football down the left saw Dowell get in on the angle and as he sent a cross over, he was wildly felled by the big centre back Ayala and the referee was given little option but to give him his second yellow and send him on his way.

    Assomalonga had entered the fray for Saville and he has was given a chance after a lucky bounce fell and the ball was played forward but his shot on the angle was saved by the legs of Henderson. Fleck was fouled but then got booked himself for carrying on with a late challenge immediately after despite the ref already stopping play.

    Van la Parra came on but Boro were struggling to create much with the long throw their main threat seemingly. United brought on Coutts for Sharp as the game entered the final minute. 4 minutes of stoppage time were played but United saw time out rather more expertly than they did the previous game holding the ball up in the final third well and winning a throw and a free kick. The final whistle saw Wilder punch the air as a changed line up with key men missing were able to get the crucial three points.

    United – Huge win. The performance was ok – we played better at Villa on Friday and kept the ball better but today we won a game with a dogged display. No one was outstanding. We had some solid performances but it was just a game where we did enough to edge it 1-0 and all important to simply take the three points. First 20 minutes we were decent but did not create too much; just half chances and then slowly they came out and improved. 0-0 was about right at the break with both teams having one long ranger spectacularly saved by either keeper. Both teams had to reshuffle with a defender each going off and the formations and shape changed for both teams.

    To say we had O’Connell and Bash out and then Baldock off; and we had to change shape quite a few times; we did really well and it was a solid performance and even better win. We seemed to start with a 4 but then ended up with almost a 3 with Stevens and Baldock pushing on and Dowell coming wide left. This changed when Baldock went off and we seemed to be back to a more orthodox flat back four with Cranie right back. I felt McGoldrick being in the hole helped us see more of the ball and Madine was a really good outlet and they could not cope with him. Dowell then played more as a left winger for a spell and we seemed to not have a right sided player. It did change quite a bit and then

    After the break Wilder went a bit more direct in terms of Madine playing and us getting it forward quicker and they struggled with his strength and hold up. Sharp and Madine both linked well and despite Henderson making one save which nearly was knocked in on the rebound after he could not hold; we had a spell for 15-20 minutes where we dominated and pinned them in. We had a few penalties appeals and overall, I just felt we put real pressure on them winning free kicks and corners. Eventually the break through came. Soon after we invited the foul for the 2nd yellow and we faced 10 men. After this they had one break but overall, we managed the game really well and the changes were decent too. We kept it and did what we had to. We actually were not put under much pressure and looked more comfortable at 1-0 than 3-1 a few days prior! Some of the squad players such as Cranie and Stearman were solid. Egan stepped up when it mattered and the front two caused problems 2nd half. It was a really big win. We put distance between us and Boro but more than that to recover from the devastation of Friday was huge.

    With Norwich losing, and Leeds not playing Saturday; we can go back right into the mix at the weekend although Reading have picked up as of late with 4 points from two games. Hopefully O’Connell might be back and Baldock is not too badly injured but we need another big push to try and make it 6 wins on the bounce at the Lane. Today did show a lot about the character of the side and showed the fringe players could come in and do a job too. It also showed the new signings Dowell and Madine also can be big players in the run in.

  2. #2
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    Middlesbrough – Much of what I expected. Dour and quite defensive. They relied on set plays and knock downs and played for corners and free kicks. General play they did very little which is a shame for them as they have players who can pass but talented players like Saville and also Howson but bypass them often. It was the usual direct ball hoping for Hugill to win the first ball and then get around him. They only played one up top and the first 20 minutes United were the better side but slowly they came into it and Mikel became more influential. Henderson made two decent saves either side of the break; we had a few chances too and the game was quite even up the break but after half time United stepped it up and even though they did have a chance or two; I felt we were the much better side 2nd half and had most of the possession and territory. You felt the goal coming when it did and after the red card, they did not really offer too much at all save the one chance from Assombalonga. I would have been very disappointed with their approach, style and defensive outlook much of the game. United had a few missing but they did not take advantage. They may saw losing Flint (and then Ayala – own fault as Basham was for us) hurt them and two sides were a bit unfamiliar in terms of formation but I felt Wilder changed it and they could not cope with us a for a long spell 2nd half.

    Pulis’ after match comments are simply pathetic. He says it was not a foul for the free kick and then a foul on the goal. The free kick one may have been harsh but they had been fouling for long periods and had got away with grappling and grabbing so can’t have it both ways. Stearman was simply stronger for me and the defender got outmuscled. He was screaming for everything and Fleck only got booked as Pulis screamed and shouted – he only dived in as he got pulled back and was on the stretch hence why we got a free kick. His after-match comments were a bit pathetic. United had upped the tempo and deserved to win against a very direct and ugly side who played little football of note. Ironic that we kind of beat them at their own style as we went more direct originally and then got on the scraps after Madine and Sharp won the ball or knocked it back. They had a few efforts 2nd half but overall 1-0 was about right and not sure other than one Assombalonga shot they did much of note after we scored and we held out rather comfortably.

    Overall, it is a big defeat for them. Automatic promotion looks a long way off for them. This was a hammer blow and now playoffs may be the best they feel they can do even with quite a few games to go. I am not sure with the style and the lack of goals they can really push for the top two. They do not concede many but they are relying on nicking 1-0’s etc and rarely will go and smash teams (the time they beat us at home a rare occasion they did do this) and actually don’t score as many goals from set plays as you would think. I find it odd he plays Hugill over Assombalonga and also, they leave other talented technical players on the bench. Quite a few fans have had enough of Pulis ball already and it is quite ugly to watch. Today they drew United, missing players, into a disjointed game and then when they concede struggle to have a plan B. I actually would not be shocked if teams like Bristol City and Derby beat them to a playoff spot. They do not look a side that is going to go on a run and win a number of games due to the aforementioned reason; they do not score enough.


    Opponent man of the match – Mikel was the best player on the field first half and controlled midfield from about 15 minutes to half time and we struggled to get a hold on him. He did not create much but just held it well and protected the defence well too. After the break we kind of cut him out and went more direct. Friend is a decent player who can defend and get forward but he had to do more of the former 2nd half. The defence was solid first half but then struggled with Madine and of course Flint going off did not help them at all. I thought that Wing showed some bits and the wing back Shotton was a strong lad who offered a threat with his long throw. Downing also got on the ball and had one decent shot that Henderson eventually got away. The two quicker lads came on Assambolonga and also Van la Parra but they did not see much of the ball.

    Weak link – Ayala committed two stupid yellow cards in fairly quick succession. They were both obvious and easy yellow cards. The 2nd was idiotic. Not sure there can be any argument. Interesting Pulis glosses over these when analysing the referee and does not critique his own defender’s stupidity. I thought Hugill was pretty dire and just fouled all game. Glad he started rather than the subs who eventually came on. They looked quite powder puff up top but did not get many crosses in and rely on the long stuff and direct knock downs. Shame as they do have some decent players but are almost drilled into playing that way.

    Henderson 7.5/10 – Showed a lot of character to bounce back from the Villa game. Came and caught one big catch amongst bodies and this set the tone. He was determined to claim it. After this he was positive all night. He punched a few away; one he maybe did not get much on but got away, made a diving save from a long ranger first half that showed his athleticism. He then made two key saves 2nd half; one which maybe he spilt a bit but did enough and we got it away with the fortune we did not have on Friday when he did the same (albeit a softer shot) and then made a save with his legs. He showed what he is all about and recovered superbly.

    Baldock 7/10 – Was doing ok in what seemed a more orthodox right back position at times but he did get forward a few times also. He was fine but they did stop our defenders getting forward and everything was a bit fixed first half.

    Stevens 7/10 – Thought it was not his best first half and he gave it away quite a bit. At times almost was a left sided centre back but then a left back and then a left wing back depending on where we were on the pitch. He was careless in a few things early but much better 2nd half and in all aspects of his play on and off the ball he improved. When they lost a man he could push up more and had more time on the ball. Still refuses to use his right foot in any situation!

    Egan 8/10 – Excellent performance. Completely bossed Hugill all night. Only lost one header and they had the long ranger they nearly scored from. I felt after this he won everything and also stepped out when he could and came forward using the ball. A few times he was right in the last third and playing the Basham role. Made a few key headers when it mattered when they lumped it forward.

    Cranie 7.5/10 – Really steady performance. Nothing fancy and he does not do what Basham does but even today he got forward a few times and stepped out when he could do. He was just solid. He used it well, made interceptions and played the percentages when he had to.

    Fleck 6.5/10 – At times decent as he stepped out of midfield and ran at players and some neat and tidy stuff. Too often his final pass went astray or he panicked when in a good position with a silly shot or overplayed ball. He also was a bit silly when he overstretched on the tackle after he was fouled originally. Some refs might have reacted to Pulis’ jumping up and down and sent him off for the intent. Needs to use his head better. He did keep it well in the closing stages and showed some intelligent play.

    Norwood 6/10 – Thought he was poor tonight and actually other than the great free kick for the goal (yes a big moment) he was wasteful on his set plays, corners and passing. He did play a few decent crossfield balls but also telegraphed a few too; got another booking and gave it away twice leading to half chances. A bit too complacent and Mikel actually got hold of the midfield after the early stages. Did better as the game closed out than he did v Villa but our better play came more from longer stuff up to the front two than the midfield playing lots of intricate stuff. On 9 bookings is he now – he may miss the Wednesday game of course if he picks up another in either of the next two games.

  3. #3
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    Duffy 6/10 – He got into a few areas but did not see much end product. He had one good shot well saved but mistimes his shot on another decent opportunity when we pulled it back. He got crowded out a few times and was a little bit wasteful but it was very crowded. Not sure he was any worse than McGoldrick but Wilder wanted a more physical presence and it worked.

    Dowell 7/10 - Decent - at times carried it well and was a threat and he carried the ball. Neat and tidy and quite mobile. A few things came off, a few did not. He did tire a bit but drew the 2nd yellow. Towards the end he looked dead on his feet as shown by the socks being right rolled up round his ankles!

    Sharp 7.5/10 – His mark may seem high but felt he worked his socks off all game. He had a few half chances first half and one good turn and shot but had little of the ball. 2nd half he linked so many times with Madine with some clever and strong hold up or flick backs. He chased and harried and never gave them a minute. They often struggled to pick him up. Seems to be getting better and better. Did not score but a good performance for the team.

    McGoldrick 7/10 – First half he was poor. He did one great flick but then tried a few more and they set them on the attack. Was a bit languid and not really strong enough a few times. Much better when played in the Duffy role 2nd half and I felt he caused problems getting into those areas where he comes deep. He won a few free kicks and generally was just more ‘at it.’ Lovely player to watch and Wilder must have told him he needed to get more involved and be more assertive.

    Subs –

    Stearman 7.5/10 – A clean sheet and a goal! A really powerful header and a crucial moment in the game and maybe the season. He came on actually and gave it away first touch but after this he was solid. He won headers when he could and just played really sensibly. Picked up the bits when it dropped and was solid defensively.

    Madine 8/10 – Thought he really helped change the game. It was 0-0 and not much in it but we had not really offered too many threats (they had not either) but then suddenly with Flint off and them not having the same presence; we played it into his head, chest and feet and he caused all sorts of issues. He is very strong and they struggled to hold him. We had a few penalty appeals from him (not seen them to see if they were or not) but the very fact he pulled them apart and they were full stretch meant we pinned them in. The pressure just increased and the goal came. He linked well with Sharp and had a few half chances. He really gave us a different outlook we have not had. He is a better footballer than you think too and quite intelligent in his link up. On that showing will be a real asset moving forward.

    Coutts – Came on for Sharp as we looked to just keep the ball. Not sure he had many touches but good to see him back involved. Sure, with possible suspensions for Coutts and Norwood coming; he may have a part to play yet.



    Wilder 8/10 – A 1-0 win and we did not concede again. That is only 1 goal conceded and 8 scored in 5 successive wins and with a reshaped team and formation we showed real character and resilience to bounce back from the Villa let down. I felt we deserved to win. He was brave enough to make the change in terms of Duffy and Dowell starting and then also changing it with Madine coming on. He got knocked for the subs Friday (not sure they had that much to do with the individual errors) but needs praise. Both subs were key in the win – one enforced and one he opted to make. A big win as if we had not got the three points tonight with everyone bunching up and after the massive disappointment of Friday; it was just *****ly important we got a decent performance but most importantly a win. Confidence is now restored and we go again at home on Saturday. Win that and we are right in the mix for automatic again.

    Referee – Andy Woolmer. My Uncle remarked he ran funny as he came out and looked a fussy ref before the game even started! He was right really. He was a bit too involved really and at times he wanted free kicks from just the right place. Throw ins’ could be taken from anywhere though! He did not bother with any spray and walls ranged from 5 yards to 8 yards maximum. Most of the bookings were right really and not sure Ayala could complain at all for two obvious yellow cards. The free kick may have been a bit soft but he still put his hands on him and was daft. Not sure what Pulis is on about on the actual header – Stearman was just stronger. He was not great but the main calls he got right. Not sure about the penalty appeals – I think a few Madine went down too early but the first one might have been a decent shout!

    Crowd – Felt it was a bit quiet to start. Boro only brought maybe 1,000 tops maybe less – poor following but I suppose it was on TV and a midweek. They made pockets of noise but seem frustrated with Pulis ball. United fans awoke from their slumber 2nd half and started to get behind the team as the pressure ramped up. The noise levels increased steadily up the goal and the Kop bayed for every free kick and possible penalty. I felt the crowd were really good as the game went on and actually did not make the team nervous and were just supportive as they saw the team were doing all they could to see things out with some smart, intelligent possession football and putting it in the right areas.
    Last edited by Deadbat_DB; 14-02-2019 at 12:22 AM.

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