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Transfer targets on target!

By Santosh Benjamin :  01/01/2008 :  Comments (11) :
With transfer rumors surrounding both James McFadden and Andy Johnson, they both stepped up and gave wonderful accounts of themselves to ease our nerves as we started the new year with a tough test at the Riverside.

To add to the fact that Boro had beaten Arsenal and Portsmouth here in recent weeks, we were fielding a depleted team without Yobo, Arteta or Cahill. The weather was miserable with the rain lashing over the field throughout the game making ball control very difficult. The initial exchanges were scrappy and Mike Riley made his scrawny(weedy) presence felt by booking Carsley in the 3rd minute for what looked like a foul but nothing more.

Tuncay was the only bright spark for an otherwise dour Boro in the first half and was through on goal when his touch let him down, allowing Howard to come and close him down. Actually there was another chance with Downing's cross/shot at goal from the left and Jags found himself on the goal line to clear it.

The second half saw us have more possession and attacking flair but nothing much to show for it. Then, against the run of play, Tuncay was played in on goal from the left and Jags, who was trailing him, did enough (was it a foul?) to divert the ball. which fell to O'Neill who fired at goal but was brilliantly denied by Howard. Replays suggested that the ref could easily have given them a penalty for that (beats me why skinny Riley didnt!).

We then went and after a good build up by the Yak, who played it to Pienaar. The ball fell into the path of Johnson who drove the ball across the keeper into the goal for smashing finish from AJ (who did the A-Star celebration). We were still looking edgy at times and my nerves were calmed when a neat exchange between Faddy and Johnson resulted in Faddy steering the ball into the net skillfully for the second goal, and his celebration was heartwarming as he pointed to his black armband of mournin ? a fine tribute to Phil O'Donnel.

We played out the rest of the game for a great win when you consider..

  1. We had a thredbare midfield
  2. We had just been beaten 3 days ago
  3. We used to lose games like these in the past
So my assessment of the team is as follows:

Moyes: Had his arms tied behind his back to some extent with not many midfielders to choose from. Hopefully this will spur him on to buy atleast two midfielders and a defender in the Jan window.

Howard: Had a good game today after the howler against the Arse.

Hibbert: Was generally good today but seemed to be outpaced most times by the player he was tracking.

Jagielka: Responded very well after his performance at the weekend... saved a certain goal in the first half.

Lescott: Was great at the back as always.

Valente: I do hope that Baines doesn't get injured for the rest of the season coz watching Valente was scary; too slow... poor passing... dwelling on the ball too long...

Neville: Had one of his better games in midfield.

Carsley: He was unlucky to be booked so early on and I was happy that he finished the game coz losing him woulda been the final straw... decent shot on goal too in the second half.

Pienaar: Was great again today but looked like he was laboring at the end of the game; we will miss him a lot in Jan/Feb.

McFadden: Was very impressive today; better passing, less dribbling into dead ends... good goal too. My Man of the Match ? hope he doesn't leave over the Jan window.

Yakubu: Was not at his best today but did enough...

Johnson: Great game like Faddy today...was a close second in my MotM voting. Goal was top drawer ? welcome back AJ!!!

Subs: Baines,Vaughan and Anichebe: Nothing much to say...

So we march on in our quest. Teams around us also won so things are still very tight in the 4th to 10th places but we just have to keep playing this way. hope for a return from Arteta and Cahill (what happened to him by the way?)...with a few new signings to bolster our team as Yak, Peanut and Yobo leave for the damn ANC.

Lovely way to start the New Year for the club. Let's hope the year brings us deserved joy... COYB

Reader Comments

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Nick Toye
1   Posted 01/01/2008 at 21:23:54

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Yakubu: Was not at his best today but did enough...

Funny, because Moyes felt he was outstanding today.
Derek Thomas
2   Posted 01/01/2008 at 21:53:32

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Fair comment except for ’ Howard’s howler’ which was not his fault, real howls would be in order if he had done a Turner Vs the mancs. Jags missed the ball, fair enough these things happen, there was no real pace on it so Yobo was guiding back a ball that was never going to make the distance to a keeper who couldn’t come past his line...defending 101...Row Z.

As for the midfield, the reason we tend to play 5 is that overall, swings and roundabouts we can’t put out 4 to do the job to a high enough standard, it’s a case of 5 @80% = 4@100.

Apart from the poorish opposition, the confidence gained during the 13 game run and learning by doing of the actual playing football (hey this pass and run stuff really works) has upped the 80% so that on this day, again bearing in mind the limited opposition even Neville didn’t look too bad (K.I.S.S.)

Things changed in 2 weeks, 3 proper singings and it’s all on again.
Tom McCann
3   Posted 02/01/2008 at 00:04:25

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Moyes said Yakubu was excellent today :S
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
4   Posted 02/01/2008 at 00:15:51

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"Excellent" is too strong a word because he wasn't at his best today. Granted he didn?t have much ? if anything ? to feed on but although he put himself about a fair bit, he just seemed to lack sharpness to me. His one shot was way off target.

And for all Howard?s punting downfield, I think he only jumped for and won one header all afternoon. Not surprsing, really, against Woodgate and Huth but he just doesn?t look arsed about jumping for headers.

Dick Fearon
5   Posted 02/01/2008 at 00:15:45

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In putting the Boro defence under pressure over the whole game, Yakubu did more than AJ.
The Yak did not easily concede possession, in AJs case it seemed like candy of a baby to Huth and Southgate.
I also offer praise to McFadden and would be sad to see him go. I believe his best position is what used to be called a deep lying centre forward a, la the ’Vision".
Gavin Ramejkis
6   Posted 02/01/2008 at 01:30:59

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Dick got to agree with you about McFadden’s best position, just look at any of the Scotland Euro qualifiers and he has always played for the Jocks in a free roaming role behind the striker, admittedly this doesn’t work so well in domestic football as defenders and midfielders of any quality will close down the space you can operate in and as I’ve said before try to play him onto his weaker right foot. If he has space and time to get it onto his left expect a sweet shot it just doesn’t happen often enough.
Mike Coates
7   Posted 02/01/2008 at 02:00:29

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I must admit it was a little weird watching both McFadden and Yakubu playing today. Yakubu had McFadden open on 2-3 occasions to play to, but refused to and instead, would go it on his own... mostly to ill effect.

And I think as you watch with Fadd?s goal, he must have remembered the passes not made to him, and instead passed right to Andy, who in turn gave it back luckily through the defender's legs for Faddy to score.

Yakubu had a heap of room to finish off the 2nd goal, but I?m happy to see McFadden got it! :)

Of course, I could be missing the fact either the players didn?t see each other or focussing to much on the ball at their feet? But they surely should be speaking to each other and know where eachother are playing, running into space.
Connor Rohrer
8   Posted 02/01/2008 at 12:46:41

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I dont think either team where brilliant but we where neat and tidy. I remember my trip to the riverside last season and it was awful. We just didn’t turn up and continually hit long balls to Johnson and Cahill. We are alot more confident than we where then and still try to play football even on poor days like this.

The game all in all was low on quality. Pienaar and McFadden where the only sparks for us whereas Tuncay had a decent game for them. I was glad McFadden played to a good level. I’ve never really rated him but he’s was neat and tidy, full of running and tried to make things happen. He looks alot more composed on the right that the left. On the left he has to play like a winger which doesn’t suit him whereas on the left he can dribble inside and have shots on target which is his obvious strength. Obviously its not his favored position but if he’s going to play anywhere this season its there. There are still flaws to his game. He’s very weak and his lack of pace doesn’t help him at times but today his decision making, work rate and invention was good.

Pienaar is a little Trojan. He’s fast becoming my favorite player. He just doesn’t stop running as proved when he just couldn’t make it at the end. In desperate need of a rest and hopefully he will get it against Oldham and the SA association let him play against Chelsea. His technique and creativity and there for everyone to see but his work rate and hunger are immense. Sign him up Moyes.

All in all a good result in difficult circumstances.
Jim Hourigan
9   Posted 02/01/2008 at 12:24:02

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I've got to show my ignorance here, but when AJ scored yesterday and ran towards us, he put one finger across two on his other hand in celebration. I've seen this done by others as well - what does it mean?
Ben Brown
10   Posted 02/01/2008 at 13:46:34

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For Jim and the countless others who have asked the same question and received vague replies:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/sport/football.html?in_article_id=505563&in_page_id=1779

So, they’re supporting A-Star, an organisation promoting opportunities for children and positive rolemodels through sport.
Nick Flack
11   Posted 03/01/2008 at 01:41:31

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Not sure if anyones actually arsed anymore, but after seeing Tit(us) Bramble prickle the red shite tonight, and then rob AJ's celebration, I looked into it:

http://astar-global.com/A-Star_About_us_page.htm

What a load of old shite.

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