Middlesbrough 2 - West Bromwich Albion 1

Date: Tuesday 22nd February 2022 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
(3-5-2) Lumley, Dijksteel, Fry, McNair, Jones, Tavernier, Howson, McGree, Taylor (Watmore, 55), Balogun (Sporar, 55), Connolly (Peltier, 83)
Unused subs: Daniels, Bamba, Léa Siliki, Coburn
(4-2-3-1) Johnstone 5.1, O'Shea 4.1, Ajayi 4.8, Bartley 4.0, Townsend 3.0 (Furlong, 81 3.8), Mowatt 3.1, Molumby 4.8, Diangana 5.7 (Tulloch, 80 4.1), Reach 2.0 (Robinson, 76 3.8), Grant 2.5, Carroll 6.2
Unused subs: Button, Clarke, Kipré, Gardner-Hickman
Manager: Steve Bruce 2.9
Scorers: McNair (60), Tavernier (69); Molumby (28)
Referee: Michael Salisbury 5.3
Attendance: 21,646   Home Fans 4.7   Away Fans 6.5
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 14

Brendan Clegg:

Yet another depressing defeat to a set of inferior but better coached players. Very very painful.

Was happy to see O’Shea in the 11 for a bit of guts and a flat back 4 but totally perplexed about Reach getting the nod in midfield and Diangana on the right is beyond a joke. Grant again on the left.

In the opening 5 minutes Reach gave the ball away 4 times when breaks were promising but Diangana at least looked lively.

It looked like a 4-3-3 with Reach pushing on.

Borough were the better team but gave us plenty of chances. They moved it better but we snuck the lead through good battling from Carroll and a deflected finish from Mulumby.

We managed to get to half time but there were problems. Grant was absolutely awful. Reach had some how gone downhill from the opening 5 minutes and was on a yellow, probably should have been sent off, Mulumby also on a yellow and Townsend somehow got away with a borderline yellow/red as last man.

We didn’t change it when the game was calling out for the energy of TGH but Borough did make subs and took the half to us. The pressure counted when they cut us open by keeping the ball and moving and deservedly equalised. By now we were leggy everywhere but O’Shea understandably feeling it more than most.

Still no changes and inevitably the same happened with a second goal and Wilder being rewarded for reacting.

In the last 15 Reach finally made way for Robinson and then Tulloch for Grady but we were done - neither got any supply at all and Borough should’ve added a third as we pressed. Full time couldn’t come soon enough.

Bruce has had long enough now. I know the games come quickly but he’s got to own this. We can’t score and Robinson is our top assist maker by miles. He might be a bottler but put strength around him and get him on the ball. Diangana on the left is so obvious - it won’t fix. our problems over night but it will give us something to build on. TGH has got that thrust to make things happen, it’s on the tapes and in the results per involvement. Surely someone studies these things and flags them - we’ve got enough coaches now right?

At the moment Livermore and Phillips walk back into this team - that says enough.

  • SJ - 5 Some mad kicks again. If Caroll plays, hit him.
  • O’Shea - 5 Good 60 minutes but understandably dropped off.
  • Ajayi - 5 Tried but we’re conceding goals.
  • Bartley - 5 As above, dealt with lots but poor goals to concede.
  • Townsend - 5 Tough night, little help in front of him.
  • Mulumby - 6 Ran about and got into the box.
  • Mowatt - 5 Passed him by.
  • Reach - 2 Woeful opening, poor crosses, not sure what that lob attempt was. Should’ve been sent off. A liability.
  • Diangana - 6 Bright but faded, looked our best option.
  • Carroll - 5 Effort and desire unquestionable but he can’t run. Jogs through games. Shame but he’s made us worse not better. Think he had to come out.
  • Grant - 2 Trampoline feet. Why does he play so deep? Goes backwards all the time. Awful.
  • Subs - it was over already.

A shocking return of points from Bruce. He needs to roll his sleeves up and get some results or this will be worse than Pardew… in the worst Championship we’ve see for 25 years.

Kev Buckley:

True to his word around not putting up with poor performances, Brucie axed the two worst players (really?) from the previous defeat, dropping Furlong and Clarke, and bringing O'Shea and Diangana so as to try and make something of our woeful right hand side (really?), rewarding yet another fine showing down the left up front by leaving that side as it's been for what seems like an eternity now, but with Reach switching back to being the creative lynchpin in a 4231.

And it nearly worked, as Reach was played in behind the Boro back line with just two minutes on the clock, but the playmaker was just a bit too slow to get to the ball.

Five minutes in and Diagana played in Carroll, however the ex-England international's first shot was straight at the defender in front of and his second from the rebound, although avoiding the defender, was some way off target.

Townsend may have got away with one around eight minutes, as a long diagonal ball, a tactic Wilder would use, on both sides, throughout the game, found the feet of a wide player who threatened to get away from the fullback but the referee saw nothing wrong, although the commentary team were talking about a possible red for a while.

Carroll, of course, is not just a goalscorer, and would made two defensive contributions in quick succession as Boro started to get into the game, before getting to the left-side by-line and trying to pull a ball back to Reach, but the defender's block of that pass fell to Mulumby, whose side-footed on-target shot took a small deflection and snuck inside the near post, to give Albion the lead with 20 minutes gone.

Ten minutes later, the goalscorer would pick up a card in almost the exact same spot that Townsend had not been pulled up in, just before the Boro keeper, very keen to play outside of his box all night, came out, missed it, and left Grant (yes, he's still there getting a chance out on the left) one-on-one with a defender with no custodian in the goal, but he wasn't even able to get a shot off.

Reach would be forced to take a yellow for the team, as Boro looked to break down our left with 10 to go, and Diangana would have to clear the danger resulting from a similar break that we couldn't stifle, as the clock moved into stoppage time.

Boro could probably claim that they edged the half but given how few real chances there's been, won't have been surprised to go in one down.

Wilder made a double substitution after five minutes of the restart and, within ten minutes of that change, Boro were level, after a series of slick short passes in between Albion's midfield and back lines worked the position for a pass in-between the full-back and centre-back to get a player to the by-line and the pull back was dispatched by one of the three players who might have been able to do so.

Ten minutes later a Boro player, dribbling down our left, got inside the box, and passes a ball across the 6-yard-box, and although the first Boro player misses it, a second Boro player is able to sidefoot the goal that gave Boro a lead they rarely looked like surrendering.

Bruce, clearly happy with yet another anonymous showing from Grant, did try to change things around elsewhere, albeit with mere like for like positional swaps in bringing on Robinson for Reach, Tulloch for Diangana, and right-sided Furlong for Townsend, in a five minute flurry of bench activity.

The wily Wilder though, countered these three quick like for like positional swaps by bringing on ex-Albion man, Peltier, a change which ensured that the game seemed to carry on as though nothing had really happened, although Carroll did get to blaze one high and wide from around the penalty spot.

Despite the loss, Albion remain in 11th, although two sides below us, Stoke and Millwall, both have two games in hand on us and so we could slip as low as thirteenth, should other results go against us by the time the Played column evens up.

It'll be interesting to see if Bruce is happy enough, with having finally scored a goal, to keep things as they were for Swansea, or whether he thinks it's time to try Diangana over on the left, which seems to be the only thing he hasn't yet tried.

Then again, given the circumstances, it might well be possible, after a few games of the "Steve Bruce" era, to start to paraphrase Lee/Peart/Lifeson in saying that

Now we've gained some understanding
Of the Brucie world that we'll see
Things that we're really tired of
Will remain reality