Seventh heaven or missed opportunity?

Boro staff

If you’d have said to me at the start of the season these statistics:

– Middlesbrough would finish seventh
– They would still be in with a shout of promotion on the last day
– They would only suffer defeat 12 times all season

I would have bitten your hand off right there. To also win ten games on the road to equal our second best record of away wins in a season, throwing in a win at Elland Road, I would have been more than pleased with the season ahead.

That is all well and good, but it’s these statistics that make the season a matter of what could have been:

– Boro only picked up six wins since the turn of the year
– Boro would go on a run that would see them not win in eight games from March 10th till April 21st
– Over the season the Boro would throw 21 points away from winning positions
– On New Year’s Day Boro where second in the npower Championship

In fairness to Mowbray he hadn’t suffered any injuries during the period of August till December, apart from the pre season injury of Kevin Thomson. The turning point seemed to be when Nicky Bailey picked up his injury on New Year’s Eve against Peterborough. Then everyone dropped like flies, including long term injuries over the first half of 2012 to Scott McDonald, Faris Haroun, Rhys Williams and Matthew Bates. Throw in the fact the discipline of Joe Bennett and Barry Robson, including sending’s off to Tony McMahon, Kevin Thomson – twice, Julio Arca and Rhys Williams and the Boro’s squad was bare.

Perhaps the inexperience could be a factor as the Boro fielded eight first team academy players regularly this year in Jason Steele, Bates, Williams, Bennett, McMahon, Seb Hines, Curtis Main and Richie Smallwood as well as appearances for Adam Reach and keeper Connor Ripley.

That being said given their experience of winning the SPL and playing in the Champions League, the likes of McDonald, Stephen McManus, and Kevin Thomson have failed to deliver whereas Barry Robson’s form, which was incredible in the first half of the season, seemed to tail off once he signed a pre-contract agreement with Vancouver Whitecaps in February. Also the return of long term injury victims McDonald, Bailey and Thomson was too late as they failed to rediscover any form that they had experience previous. One more problem was that top goal scorer Marvin Emnes was playing through injury since March, so you can see just what a good job Tony Mowbray has done.

The main issue that has got Boro fans’ backs up is the dreaded home form. The Reds have only won seven at home all season and have seen the Reds win by a two goal margin twice this season. Big games at home have seen the team crumble and incredibly falter in the promotion race. Defeats to West Ham, Cardiff, Burnley, Reading and Leeds, which all ended 2-0, left a bad taste in fans’ mouths. The thing that topped it all off for the Riverside faithful was the drab 0-0 draw against all ready relegated Doncaster that ultimately cost Boro the play-offs in the short run.

With credit to Mowbray, he has acknowledged the fact that his Boro side have faltered this season in terms of where they were on January 1st and also the fact they have not done enough at home this season, a subject that needs to be addressed not only for Mogga’s tenure, but previous regimes. In five years the Boro have played 110 home games, the number of games won by the Reds – 39. Having said that you can’t ignore the fantastic job he has done since he arrived in October in 2010, in brief he saved the Reds from relegation, was forced to cut the wage bill and still finished seventh the following season.

The consolation for Boro fans is that their team is in a good place, although more cuts are to happen in the summer. Nine players are out of contract including top wage earners such as Robson and Hoyte. With eight people out and maybe the sales of more big earners Mowbray can start to create his own team and show is credentials as a top manager which saw him take West Brom out of this division playing the type of football that was hailed by the national press

Written by Scott Easby, We Are Going Up’s Middlesbrough blogger

Scott tweets at @SEasby12

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