Proactive Pressing is Key For Boro

by Dave Hearn

Two home wins in four days means the dream of a league title is still very much alive for Boro as the dust begins to settle on Aitor Karanka’s impassioned comments regarding Boro’s support this season. If the meticulous Spaniard was looking for a reaction from both players and supporters then he has certainly got one ahead of Friday night’s televised trip to Norwich City. Hopefully Karanka will make a trend of such provocative pre-match posturing in the future, starting with his views on Mark Page and his penchant for trampling all over any outbreak of spontaneity on the terraces by delving deep into his collection of cassettes and lobbing something terrible all over a goal celebration.

Do we really need to hear ‘Chelsea Dagger’ when Pat Bamford has just slammed another one into the old onion bag? Of course we don’t. If Mark Page didn’t play The Fratellis when the Boro scored a goal then the only people who would remember The Fratellis would be The Fratellis, and I’m more than comfortable with that. Even Jo Whiley would admit to being comfortable with that. We have the Red Faction making a tremendous old racket and the north stand is finding its voice again. We do not need somebody trying to orchestrate and prompt an atmosphere where one already exists.

As for the football itself, the team set the template for Tuesday’s particularly vociferous atmosphere inside the stadium by starting the game at a very high-tempo and pressing Wolves as high up the pitch as they possibly could. It was an aesthetically pleasing first-half performance and the game should have been done and dusted by half-time. It was an example of the sort of football the Teesside public will always respond most enthusiastically to and when it works as well as it did on Tuesday you wonder why the lads aren’t encouraged to play in such a fashion much more often. The careful, considered and meticulous approach – the patient reliance on sound defensive organisation before the taking of a chance and the crisp post-goal counter-attacking that inevitably follows – has worked very well for Boro too this season but when you take into account the effect the higher-octane stuff has on the atmosphere inside the stadium it is surely something that we could see more of in future.

It could well be that particular style of play that is key to picking up the win at Norwich on Friday. Boro seemed confused as to what to do when faced with Bournemouth on their own patch and the game was effectively over within fifteen minutes. Things were much closer, the line much finer, at Watford on Easter Monday but once the team had fallen behind they never looked like being much of a threat and made very hard work of getting into Watford’s half of the field. A performance akin to those produced at Dean Court and Vicarage Road this Friday night would be bitterly disappointing after such a good one against Wolves.

The intensity shown throughout Tuesday’s win has to be the template for the remaining games if the team are to turn what has been an excellent season so far into one of the best in living memory and now is the time for Aitor Karanka and the team to be bold, brave and decisive. The feeling is that they will need to be if they are to return to Teesside with the dream of automatic promotion intact for at least another seven days.