Saturday, 7 April 2007

Boro smash dismal Watford

Here we go, Rochemback scoring a goal!!

Many years of watching Boro tends to promote cynicism. The lack of enthusiasm amongst fans going into today's game was understandable. Last week's spineless defeat at West Ham, the absence of Woodgate and Arca and inept, bottom-of-the-league opposition seemed the perfect recipe for a 'typical Boro' performance and dropped points. Instead, the players inspired the fans for once and three valuable points were secured. The importance of the victory is only heightened by the sudden and unexpected competence now being displayed by West Ham and Charlton.
It already seems a common theme of this blog to state that the opposition were of previously unseen ineptitude. Charlton before Christmas were far more disorganised, clueless and spineless than the 2-0 scoreline suggests. Bolton were truly dreadful in January but it still felt like they may have escaped with a milder beating if they'd had someone better than the hopeless Nicky Hunt to mark Downing. Watford managed to beat all of these challenges to set a high (low?) standard in the battle for the title of most inept visitors to the Riverside this season. They did not just look like a Championship team - they looked like a bad Championship team.
It took just five minutes to forge a lead as, not for the last time, the bright, jinking play of Adam Johnson unsettled the visitors' defence. Johnson's cross was headed back across the goalmouth by Downing to set up an easy finish for Mark Viduka. Johnson's inclusion on the right wing transformed the balance of the side. With two genuine wingers on display, Watford's defence was struggling from early on.
The Hornets briefly levelled as the Boro defence switched off. Damien Francis smashed a flick-on past Schwarzer from close range. This seemed to spark the home team into life. Johnson deliberated before picking out George Boateng. The skipper's innocuous strike flicked off Chris Riggott's heel and speared into the top corner. The half-time lead was just about deserved.
After the break, Boro poured forward with Viduka and Johnson proving particularly dangerous. De Merit and Shittu were reduced to frequent shirt-tugging and the American was extremely fortunate not to concede a penalty while grappling with Viduka. Ben Foster demonstrated the benefits of a season's practice behind Watford's porous defence by superbly blocking a Rochemback follow-up, while Shittu bravely deflected a close range strike from Yakubu that seemed destined for the net over the bar. The breakthrough seemed inevitable.
With a little over fifteeen minutes left and a defence beginning to appear a little nervy, Viduka struck. Adam Johnson was again involved. His early run from a throw in flummoxed the Watford defence and Viduka eventually carved an angle to smash the ball into the top corner. Soon after, Yakubu harried De Merit out of possession and Viduka slid the ball into the path of Rochemback. The portly Brazilian controlled and poked the ball past Foster.
Overall, it was a surprisingly enjoyable afternoon which had seemed to promise only tedium and anti-climax. There were many impressive performances as a dismal Watford team were dispatched with confidence and flair. On today's evidence, only the commendable goalkeeping of Ben Foster is sparing Watford from total humiliation. They are team of such limitations it is practically impossible to describe them without becoming incredibly patronising. Nonetheless, these three points seem to have just about banished any lingering relegation fears, particularly with the unimpressive Aston Villa to follow next Saturday. Hopefully, this level of performance can be kept up and everyone can set off for summer holidays smiling.
Player Ratings
1 Schwarzer 6 Barely touched the ball. No chance with goal.
17 Xavier 8 Burst forward with attacking intent in second half. Crazy man, crazy hair.
33 Taylor 6 Not his finest afternoon but solid enough.
5 Riggott 7 Untroubled.
14 Huth 7 He kicks the ball very hard.
28 Johnson 9* Lively and positive. Attacking intent crucial for first 3 goals.
19 Downing 7 A constant threat.
10 Rochemback 7 Thrived against hopeless opposition. Well taken goal
7 Boateng 8 Dominated midfield. Classic Boat.
20 Yakubu 7 Direct running troubled defence.
9 Viduka 9 SIGN HIM ON!!!!!

Friday, 6 April 2007

Boro need to swat Hornets

The Huth is back - Watford strikers should wear boxes

I'm back after an extended break caused by a wine-fuelled sojourn to Bordeaux and apathy after last Saturday's dismal yet utterly predictable defeat at West Ham. Tomorrow's game may not seem particularly appealing - the prospect of paying money to watch Stuart Parnaby play as a winger would surely dismay most people. However, with Monday's scheduled defeat at Liverpool postponed, the next two Saturdays provide two winnable home games which must be used to banish any lingering relegation fears.

Our last two league games have ended with defeats to Man City and West Ham, providing uncomfortable evidence of the paucity of our squad. Fortunately, colossal German lump Robert Huth is back to cover for the suspended Emmanuel Pogatetz. Julio Arca faces a fitness test - his groin is still causing problems. I would personally be happy to devote my Saturday to caressing his toned Latin upper leg if it means we are spared Fabio Rochemback or, God forbid, Jason Euell. I'm not sure it would help though.

Lee Cattermole completes a 2 game suspension while James Morrison is serving the second of three games for his highly amusing assault on Boro's rubber-legged, gimp-faced, greasy nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo. This will hopefully give Adam Johnson a chance to play. Plenty of managers seem prepared to play right-footed players on the left. Our balance would be best served by two natural wide players, even if they are both left-footed.

Prediction: A beautiful Bank Holiday weekend on the Tees riviera spoiled only by a grim game of football - 2-1 Boro.