Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Boro's stuttering form continued last night as Nigel Pearson's Leicester City stole victory in a dire match at a half empty Riverside Stadium. Having spurned several chances to take the lead, Boro then allowed Lloyd Dyer an obscene amount of time and space to score the crucial goal with just seven minutes to go.

Gareth Southgate made one enforced change to the side who threw two points away at Coventry on Saturday, with Tony McMahon replacing the hamstrung Justin Hoyte. Leicester made five changes, including introducing the fantastically monikered Frenchman Yann Kermorgant.

The first half was spectacularly awful. Boro were listless, justifying every single one of the 17,000 empty seats. Leicester were even worse, looking every inch a side just escaped from the barren wastelands. The most threatening effort on goal was an errant David Wheater passback that Brad Jones had to stretch to stop. The grinding monotony of the Championship was in full evidence here - rarely can such earnest endeavour from two sides have resulted in so little end product.

Boro at least perked up after the break, particularly when Leroy Lita and Mark Yeates replaced Emnes and Arca. Leicester keeper Chris Weale was still rarely tested, the only scare coming when Adam Johnson lobbed into the corner of the net from distance after Weale had conceded a throw. The referee called the action back, restarting with a Boro throw that saved Weale's blushes.

The keeper was finally forced into making a save from St Ledger as a Yeates free kick induced panic in the Leicester defence. It was from another free kick soon after that trouble began to brew in the home defence.

Brad Jones could not collect the initial shot and Jack Hobbs inexplicably smashed against the post with the net gaping. Boro failed to heed the warning, almost instantly ceding another chance for the visitors. From a simple throw in, Leicester were somehow allowed to find two men in the area with only Tony McMahon for company. Oakley sqaured for Lloyd Dyer and, although McMahon managed a partial block, he couldn't prevent the goal.

Boro did at least put Leicester under pressure in the dying moments but to no avail. Gareth Southgate was subject to the most vocal criticism heard from the Riverside crowd in some time. Several called for his head and optimstically joined in with the visiting fans' chants of "You're getting sacked in the morning".

There's no chance of that happening in spite of the growing body of evidence against Southgate. A superb player, inspirational captain and an honourable man, Southgate is unfortunately not a good manager. He may have been handed a difficult job but he has done little to inspire confidence that he can succeed. Boro looked depressingly toothless against a horrribly limited Leicester side. Even when they managed to build up a head of steam after the break, Weale was rarely tested.

The lack of defensive organisation that led to Leicester's goal was concerning. After four consecutive clean sheets at the start of the season, Boro haven't kept one since Robert Huth left for Stoke. There has to be a fear that the last three games are a truer reflection of Boro's abilities than the first five. The poisonous cycle of last season is being repeated again - rallying cry, soul-destroying defeat, "I can handle the flak", "Southgate demands response" rallying cry, defeat (repeat until you lose the will to live). How much longer can this go on before something gives?

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