When we were in the Premier League did we panic when we were spanked by Manchester United or Chelsea? I don’t recall that we did. Why was this? Because they were better than us, richer than us and always likely to beat us. Yes we would go into these games hoping to carry out some form of smash and grab raid. But realistically did we ever enter those games expecting to take points? I never did at least.
So why should we be panicked about losing to one of this leagues big teams by a fair margin? The answer is we should not. The parallels between our games against the Premier League big boys is quite apt. We were trying to compete on a shoestring in a league where the likes of Wayne Rooney were being transferred for £30 million pounds. Now we are trying to compete without even a shoestring in a league where the likes of Britt Assombalonga go for £15 million and probably earn comfortably in excess of 10 times the £4,500 a week we can offer.
Lets though step away from the massive gap between the teams.
I felt, and correct me below if you disagree, that we actually played alright in the first half. Craig Noone was looking dangerous and lively. Gary Madine was doing what he does. The whole unit was defending well giving Middlesbrough very little space and in the most part reducing them to long range shots which whizzed wide.
The main exception was one moment where Adama Traore broke free. It was always going to happen as there was no way we were going to contain that pace and trickery for 90 minutes. The goal was a little soft in my view, a bit too easy once the ball was crossed in. But overall we looked in decent shape. Yes we clearly lacked the cutting edge, but we were playing up against a defence containing Ben Gibson who made the England squad last season and is valued at more than our entire club. I mean what hope did our merry band of freebees have against that?
The second half got away from us yes.
But by that point we were opening up a bit to try and find a way back into the game. Antonee Robinson on the whole played well. He showed he can be an attacking threat and trying to contain Traore was always going to be a thankless task. I think it was him who have away the ball for the second goal. But like I say we had opened up by that point. Would that have happened at 0-0? I think it is far less likely. Would the goal have been so certain if it hadn’t dropped straight to Traore and all his pace? Defiantly not though it always would have been hard to deal with.
The third does have to go down as Ben Alnwick’s error. But would the Boro player have had that space at 0-0? The evidence of the first half would say no.
Yes there are issues to address as we don’t want to be giving away easy goals against anyone. But playing against the likes of Boro was always going to lead to a steep learning curve, and hopefully Phil Parkinson and the players will respond to that.
When the game is dissected though if you take away Traore I think it is very possible that it could have finished 0-0. At the very least it would not have ended 3-0 and we would all be talking about the improvements the team have made to not be blown away by a Boro side which will compete for automatic promotion most likely.
So my conclusion is that, as with the title, we just need to keep calm and carry on. We go again on Tuesday against Sheffield United. They have had a good start to the season and this will be a tough game. But we should not kid ourselves into thinking there will be any easy games this season.
If we can play like we did against Boro in the first half and work on the shortcomings we will have a chance. All hope is not yet lost just because we lost to a Premier League team in waiting.