Sunday, 18 October 2009

Boro stung by Hornets

The pressure on Gareth Southgate continues to build as Boro lost a third successive home game. Eviscerated by West Brom, mugged by Leicester and now stung by Malky Mackay's Watford, Boro have lost half of their fixtures at the Riverside this season. It does not bode well.

There was a certain amount of misfortune in this defeat with Scott Loach's goal living a charmed life at times during a frantic second half. That should not however deflect focus on another disjointed performance in front of another low crowd.

Boro did create some chances early on. Leroy Lita somehow headed wide from close range, although the linesman's flag was raised, while Adam Johnson was found in space on the right but took too long turning onto his favoured left foot.

Watford, however, started to exert more influence. Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury was neat and tidy in midfield while former Boro striker Danny Graham led the line while. When Sean St Ledger was caught in possession, it was Graham who found the intelligent run of Tom Cleverley, another loan signing, who comfortably beat Brad Jones. The Hornets held their lead to the break and merited their advantage.

There was at least a response after the break. A flurry of corners should have lead to an equaliser but St Ledger's header was harshly ruled out. Watford continued to look tentative from set pieces but Boro were struggling to threaten from open play. The only time Loach's goal was threatened came when Tony McMahon launched a speculative long range shot which spanked the underside of the crossbar before bouncing to safety.

If there was a lack of quality in Boro's play, the effort remained intense. The final chance came from another corner in injury time. In desperation, Brad Jones raced up to supplement the attack but succeeded only in blocking an apparently goalbound header. The final whistle was greeted with the obligatory half hearted boos from three quarters of a sparsely populated ground.

Boro could easily have taken at least a point from the game. Had St Ledger's header stood, there would have been over half an hour to press for a winner against a side who looked shaky against aerial attack. But Watford could reasonably argue they deserved their win - during their time in the ascendancy, they passed the ball with a fluency that eluded Boro all afternoon. Their winning goal was a result of by far the slickest move of the game.

Boro were hampered by all too familiar faults. Individually, Wheater and St Ledger are promising players but both look they need a more senior partner. St Ledger's largely impressive display was again marred by a lapse in concentration. Further forward, the centre of midfield remains a constant concern. While Didier Digard was combative, his distribution was desperately poor at times and overall there was a real lack of movement. Leroy Lita and Jeremie Aliadiere were left isolated for large periods of the game.

There is, at least, not long to stew on this latest failure, with Derby County at the Riverside on Tuesday night. Boro fans will note the Rams' ominous away record, with Nigel Clough's men yet to record an away win this season. Home form is quickly becoming a blight which could ruin a season. Gareth Southgate must fix it before its too late.

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