RAMBLE: Middlesbrough 3-0 Wednesday
Middlesbrough. I know Jeff Stelling went on his Ramble about how great it is but c’mon Jeff – has anyone ever looked forward to a trip to the smog in the cup?
Maybe I’m being unfair. My bad feeling isn’t toward the town itself.
I just associate the ground with us not doing right well.
Having said that; it’s not actually that long ago that we beat Boro on their own patch.
Big Dave had the game of his life a couple of seasons ago, scoring a brace as we ran out 3-2 winners, leaving us all bewildered and wonderfully befuddled.
MAGIC OF THE CUP
Mind you, that was just a league game; today is FA Cup 3rd Round day.
Sunday at 3pm?
Annoyingly though, it was a Sunday.
Why we were playing on a Sunday at 3pm is anyone’s guess. We weren’t on TV, there were no traffic issues or local rivals to contend with as far as we knew.
It made no sense.
If the FA (and BBC & BT of course) are so keen on promoting the magic of the cup and encouraging fans to ‘Get Involved’, why do things like moving our game and putting the Cardiff v Fulham match on at 11.30 on a Sunday morning? Ridiculous.
Still, you could feel at least a small portion of the magic of the cup in the air as Dad, Uncle Derek, Sister Hannah (she’s not a nun) and I set off up the A1 in search of an upset in our favour.
I was hoping to evoke the spirit of our 1996 cup run that culminated in a Quarter Final defeat to Wimbledon.
I was sporting the same shirt I wore for that day as mascot with my sister.
Yes I can still fit into the same shirt 21 years later because they’d run out of boys shirts at the club shop so I had to wear a medium man size for the big day – not much has changed it at the Owls Megastore.
Up the A66 and on to the overpass, smog and chimney towers came into view in glorious sunshine as well as the what I can only describe as the giant condom fishing net near the stadium – “Too many holes in it, Tom” Uncle Derek rightly pointed out.
THE DIFFICULT SECOND ALBUM
Despite what the form table says, it ain’t been good for at S6 while now with the delightful exception of the Newcastle match.
Personally, I’ve been clinging on to the old adage that while we might be playing poorly, we’re still picking up results but the truth is that this will eventually catch up with us.
I know we’ve had injuries but with the players CC has it his disposal, we should still be comfortably beating teams like Rotherham.
Wednesday have done little to inspire some big Hillsborough crowds
Let’s face it; we were spoilt last season.
After being accustomed to an expert level of crap for so many years, the feast of football we were treated to took us all by surprise.
We scored goals and good goals too, some proper thunderbastards.
We zipped the ball about, moved forward quickly and converted chances.
There’s been times this season when we’ve had flashes of this craft and guile where you think, “Ey up, we’re back!” But we don’t kick on.
I don’t buy this ‘the opposition has found us out’, either – what are we actually saying here?
Last season was iconic, individual and unexpected
They’ve found out that last season we moved the ball around quick so they close us down quicker? Balls – I don’t see any opposition player hurrying to close us down when we’re arsing about with at the back, pondering and pondering.
Surely we’re only arsing about with it at the back because those in the middle, on the wings and up top aren’t working hard enough to lose their man and make themselves available.
I also don’t buy this ‘the players don’t look bothered this season’.
For me this is all linked to the confidence that we’re seriously lacking.
Those same players last season we’re full of it – standing tall, wanting the ball, making runs and enjoying their football. This was all reflected in their confident body language.
Clearly we’ve too many players ‘hiding’ this season. Look at the standout performer of this season – Sammy Sammy Sammy Sammy Hutchinson. He’s not lacking confidence is he? He’s one of the few players doing all of the above.
I don’t expect us to be challenging Newcastle or Brighton – they’re way ahead – but I do expect us to be higher placed than Reading, Udders and L***s.
So are we disappointed because it’s ‘just’ them three above us and not Villa, Norwich and Derby?
We know what we’re capable of and undoubtedly if we were playing anything like last season, we’d be 3rd – this is why there’s so much unrest among Wednesdayites in my opinion.
So it was a big opportunity on Sunday then to play with a bit of freedom – nothing to lose with a few players due a good game.
We parked up in a car park that we clearly were going to regret later but at just £2 with food and a pub in sight, we were happy.
We wolfed down a Subway and nipped across the road to a proper football pubby pub. We swung open the doors into ‘Doctor Browns’ to be greeted by welcoming faces both Boro and Owls, plenty of bar staff, real ale and a 70’s carpet.
They even had a DJ with a microphone whipping up the crowd playing that famous Pigbag song that Boro adopted as their own. Ye know the one; we sing “deh deh deh deh…. F**king useless” to it. It’s mighty catchy. It was all nice and rowdy.
After casting our eyes over a surprisingly strong forward-thinking line-up, we supped up and headed to the Riverside through a winding route over train tracks and under under passes, passing a cheerful busker on our way.
I was gonna stick some money in his guitar case but only had a fiver. I didn’t want to show us up trying to get £4.50 change out of his case.
The home of the Boro soon came into view and after a short queue and the obligatory touching up from a luminous man, we were in.
Riverside (Let’s Go!)
I hadn’t been since they decided to put the away fans in the corner and I have to say it’s much better.
The view is excellent and allows for a better atmosphere to be generated against Boro’s ‘singing section’ behind the goal. Not sure about these singing sections mind you. I know Chansiri mentioned it in the steering group to improve our atmosphere but I just can’t see it at S6.
It’s a nice idea but it just seems a bit tinpot in this country. They pretty much stuck with one song/tune all afternoon as well – that one from the cat food advert of the 90’s. Felix the Cat I think it was… in black and white… YouTube it.
Cat food songs aside, the pre-match atmosphere was winding up nicely. The Pigbag song made a welcome return along with some disco lights on the pitch and in the stands.
It started with what seemed like just one guy flicking a switch on and off but it soon progressed to an epileptic nightmare. Even so, by the time the teams came out, everyone was well up for it.
I have to say that in recent seasons, we’ve absolutely nailed ‘Hi-Ho’ away from home. I love watching the home fans turn and face us as we belt out the chorus.
We even manage the difficult second verse most of the time.
As mentioned, we lined up with a strong looking team on paper, which was good with the only notable exceptions being Westwood and Sammy Sammy Sammy Sammy Hutchinson.
Absent *sad face*
Boro also looked strong so there was no talk of fielding weaker teams for this one.
Aside from Wildsmith being closed down by Negrado from a back-pass (more on that later), we started well, moving the ball around the back and midfield quite comfortably as we just love to do.
We were getting stuck in and Fessi in particular was running around biting the heels of the Boro backline. Good to see.
Boro were letting us have plenty of the ball, Traore was doing most of the running down their left with Palmer keeping him quiet and Ayala scuffed a shot over the bar while off balance.
In the stands, we were making a good amount of noise as Boro kept banging that drum and doing their cat food song.
Tango was the conductor of course but also provided a helpful lost glove service singing “You’ve dropped your glove” at a steward. Strangely, he never did pick it up.
We weren’t really creating much on the pitch at all.
Possibly our best chance of the whole game from a corner where we did that ‘everyone leg it to the back post’ routine. After some confusion in the box, Fessi seemed to swivel and fire a shot at goal.
Difficult to see from where we were but it looked exciting. So exciting in fact that I took my coat off.
The crowd were doing their bit but the game wasn’t really up to much to be honest. We had the ball, didn’t do anything with it, Boro were sloppy, we won the ball back and then went backwards again. We had one or two moments of creativity to be happy about but it still came to nothing.
One thing I wish they’d stop doing or do it better is the fashionable quick free-kick. I completely get the idea of catching the opposition off guard but this only works if we’re actually awake and looking for the ball. I sometimes think we’d be better just lobbing it up the top two, seeing if we could get a knock down or something.
There’s no point quickly passing the ball backwards is there?
We all yawned to half time only being stirred from our stupor when a tannoy loud enough to rival the Wolves one informed us all we had 3 minutes extra fun minutes of stoppage time.
*very Jim Royle voice* Ring of fire, my arse.
The stadium announcer let us know we were to be treated to the original version of Ring of Fire. Unless he meant on vinyl, I didn’t know there was another version but still… “de de de de de de de derrrrrrrrrr.”
The second half saw much more action. Sadly for us it was mainly at the wrong end.
McManaman was introduced for Wallace, which excited the Wednesday faithful; Carlos clearly thought we had half a chance here so we decided to go for it.
The first real “ah crap” moment was when Stuani was through on goal.
He decided to square it to Negrado but Wildsmith did well to gather at his feet. Not long after that, our good work came undone as Bannan initially did well to win the ball but for some reason then dwelled on the ball too long and ended up giving a free-kick away in a good area.
Leadbitter made us pay, curling the ball round the wall and into Wildsmith’s bottom corner.
The action continued as almost straight from the restart Fessi was played clean-ish through and got ahead of Ayala. He clearly elbowed/shouldered Fessi out of the way and was shown the red card.
The atmosphere was suddenly electric. Boro fans were still celebrating their goal while we thought we had a real chance. We also had a free-kick in a promising area. Sadly, Jones could only fire into the wall.
The ref dishes out Ayala’s card (Sport.net)
The game had well and truly livened up now with a few tasty tackles flying in causing Boro to have a few players booked in quick succession.
Just when we looked to be getting back into, we were hit with a sucker punch.
As I’ve mentioned, in the first few seconds Wildsmith got away with one, Negrado charging down his back pass clearance. The same thing happened but with a more conclusive results.
To be fair to Wildsmith, he’d been getting poor back passes to him all game. I know he’s a right-footed professional footballer but he was getting the ball back to his ‘wrong’ foot.
Westwood is left footed and the Wednesday defence clearly forgot who was in a goal a couple of times. However on this occasion it started with Joe firing a poor pass out to Pudil who struggled to keep the ball in play.
Wildsmith: will come back stronger
Under pressure, Pudil fired the ball back at pace to Wildsmith. He smashed it straight at Negrado who ran away belly laughing with the ball in the net.
2-0 and even with 10 men, this was going to be some task for us.
Having still not tested their goalkeeper, Carlos went for broke. On came Joao and a new lad, ANDY Nuhiu according to their announcer. Sadly, he looked and played a lot like his brother Atdhe.
Aside from a few occasions where we threatened to have a shot, we were disappointing for the last 10-15 minutes.
We never really looked like were going to score which is a shame because at 2-1, it’d have made for an exciting last few minutes. As it happened, we were caught on the break as Stuani danced through our back line and after a good parry from Wildsmith, De Roon smashed home.
3-0 flattered Boro as two of the goals were completely avoidable and we more than matched them for a good portion of the game. The first goal was always going to be crucial and it was Boro that got it.
The sending off didn’t really help us as it should’ve done and any kind of momentum was stalled following the unfortunate second goal.
At the final whistle, it was nice to see Fessi be the first to console Wildsmith; giving him a hug and telling him to keep his chin up.
The lad has a bright future ahead of him so shouldn’t let this error get him down – plus he’s a Wednesdayite!
So no cup magic at the Riverside then.
Of course, Huddersfield at home on Saturday is much more of an important game and will really show us all where we’re at this season.
We’ll (hopefully) have to make do with another Play-off final trip for some real Wembley magic.
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @tjchitt86