Saturday, 4 April 2009

Always new depths

Boro lurched deeper into the mire after a desperate 4-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers today. Abject defending cost Gareth Southgate's side dearly, exacerbating both relegation woes and the poisonous atmosphere in a mutinous travelling support.

It didn't take long for a simple defensive error to set Boro on the back foot. Emmanuel Pogatetz inexplicably failed to cut out Ricardo Gardner's cross, leaving Kevin Davies with a simple finish. Boro looked uncomfortable with Southgate's unusual 5-3-2 formation, with David Wheater looking particularly ill at ease.

Yet with the awkward Pogatetz withdrawn through injury and a tactical switch, Boro began to get a foothold. An Afonso Alves free kick hit the post and Tuncay beat Jaaskelainen only to be denied by the linesman's flag. Not to be denied, Boro levelled after a slick move was finished off by Gary O'Neil.

Having got back in the game, Boro undid their good work with another awful piece of defending just before half time. A simple punt in the box caused untold problems and Gary Cahill was given a farcical amount of time to beat Brad Jones.

To their credit, Boro regrouped and started the second half well. Tuncay came close with a series of acrobatic efforts but the pressure passed without Jaaskelainen being unduly troubled. With the bench in stasis, Bolton began to exert a greater influence and Boro's threat receded. But when the third goal came it was something of a surprise, as Matthew Taylor's innocuous free kick somehow drifted into the far corner of Brad Jones' net. The rank defending as Ricardo Gardner added a late fourth on the break was now an irrelevance.

Boro's defending was nothing short of abject and the team looked totally bereft of belief in their own ability to save themselves. Pogatetz was simply awful, Wheater nervous, O'Neil wasteful, Downing peripheral. The travelling support expressed their anger at a team who inspire no passion or confidence. You have to wonder how low an ebb Boro must reach before Steve Gibson feels compelled to act. Gareth Southgate's team are heading down and, on this evidence, it is richly deserved.

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