Middlesbrough 1 Ipswich Town 3

09 August 2010 09:20
Middlesbrough 1 Ipswich Town 3

ON the opening match of the new Championship season, many supporters chose to wear red wigs attached to Tam o'Shanters as a tribute to the manager responsible for lifting Middlesbrough's spirits during the summer.

By the time the full-time whistle had blown, however, Gordon Strachan was given a reminder of the difficult first seven months he had in charge, with the boos and jeers which have become synonymous with the club in recent years returning on day one of the new campaign.

Given the decline since Middlesbrough's run to the UEFA Cup final in 2006, the fans have had every right to air their frustration.

And the manner of the second-half capitulation to Ipswich Town deserved to be met with noises of dissatisfaction from the stands.

It is, though, worth remembering that this was the first competitive appearance of Strachan's new-look Middlesbrough and there are still 45 matches remaining for the former Celtic manager to deliver a return to the Premier League.

This time last year, Gareth Southgate led Boro to an unbeaten four-match start, including three wins, but he was sacked by October. Perhaps this early defeat is the wake-up call to any members of the squad thinking promotion will come easily.

Roy Keane, the Ipswich manager, still thinks Middlesbrough will live up to their billing as favourites to win the Football League title, even if it could take time for Strachan's summer recruits to find top gear.

Middlesbrough may have been tipped but it takes time, of course it does, said Keane, knowing he failed to win any of his first 14 matches in charge last season after spending more than £8m on his squad.

I had that last year. You bring players in but they need time to get used to each other.

We always thought we could cause Boro a few problems but we also know if we can finish above Middlesbrough this season we have a hell of a chance.

Forget about the money they have spent, they have quality and they've got characters.

Sometimes you can catch teams in the first week because they are still getting used to each other.

I am glad we were here for the first Saturday of the season and not in January and February, when players have had a few months to settle.

All three of the summer signings in Strachan's starting lineup struggled to make an impact.

Kevin Thomson was steady, without being impressive, Nicky Bailey failed to make the driving runs from midfield which David Norris succeeded in doing for Ipswich, and Kris Boyd never had the opportunities in front of goal.

It would be wrong to just single out the new recruits, however.

Apart from Danny Coyne, Matthew Bates and Julio Arca, the rest of the team failed to emerge from the half-time team-talk in the right frame of mind.

Middlesbrough might have been in front through Scott Mc- Donald's close-range header after Arca had nodded Barry Robson's perfect delivery back across goal inside 22 minutes, but they failed to test Marton Fulop in the Ipswich goal for the remainder of the afternoon.

It was a first-half display not dissimilar to that which an organised Newcastle United regularly delivered on their way to promotion last season. The difference on Teesside was that they couldn't keep it going for the full match.

Within five minutes of the restart, Ipswich had taken the lead with two goals inside 81 seconds.

When a Grant Leadbitter ball into the area was poorly cleared by Bailey, Tommy Smith struck low against Bates, changing the direction of the ball, and goalkeeper Coyne was caught out.

Moments later, Carlos Edwards' centre in to the area allowed Tamas Priskin, who had been allowed space between David Wheater and Stephen McManus, to dive eight yards from goal to apply the cushioned header which sent the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of Coyne's net, leaving the Riverside crowd stunned.

By the time reality had set in, Jon Stead had emerged from the bench to strike the stunning third with a fine volley and blow away any hopes Middlesbrough had of starting the campaign in winning fashion.

It would be nice if there was a bit of a reversal to last season, when we started well and ended up fading, said Coyne, the only player available to speak after the defeat and only one of three players to have started last season's opener with Sheffield United.

Defeats like this do give you a kick up the backside we just have to rally around and stick together.

They are all experienced lads in that dressing room who have won titles and cups, so we have the quality and experience to sort this out. They have experienced defeat before and been under massive pressure before.

With the sort of experience we have in there it's not the be all and end all. We wanted to start well but it is getting consistency, and taking the good with the bad, that's important.

Coyne fears there could be knee-jerk reactions among the thousands of supporters who left the stadium as soon as Stead hammered home the third goal and among those who made their opinions clear at the end of the game.

The main goal, we have all been saying, is promotion and that is what we are going for,

he said. You can't judge us on one game.

What was most alarming was how Middlesbrough, despite boasting former Old Firm favourites Boyd and McDonald up front, were unable to muster a shot to test Fulop after the opening goal.

With a Carling Cup tie at Chesterfield tomorrow and a trip to Leicester next Saturday, however, there is little time to dwell on the defeat.

You know you will be beaten at some point in the season, we just have to bounce back,

said Coyne, who made a number of other saves to keep the score to three.

We are disappointed in the way we handled the second half. We need to put the keeper under more pressure, keep the ball better and keep clean sheets. That's basically all there is to it.

We have to learn to play together quickly or results like this will happen again. We just have to pick ourselves up.

After the initial coming into the dressing room and saying a few things, we can't dwell on being beaten, we have to look positive. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Matchfacts Goals:

1-0: McDonald (22, nodded Arca's header across goal over the line to finish off a decent move)

1-1: Smith (50, his shot from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection and beat Coyne)

1-2: Priskin (51, worked free of his marker to turn Edwards centre in with a diving header)

1-3: Stead (77, struck a clinical volley beyond Coyne, who was left with little support from his defence)

Bookings: Priskin (36, dangerous play); Norris (45, foul); Arca (49, unsporting behaviour); Kennedy (53, unsporting behaviour)

Attendance: 21,882

Referee: Tony Bates (Burslam) might have infuriated both benches with a couple of decisions, but was mainly correct 6


Shots on 1 9

Shots off 6 5

Corners 4 4

Offsides 3 1

Fouls 9 11


7 Coyne: Made a number of saves to keep Ipswich's tally down to just three;

6 Hoyte: One of the bright points on an otherwise frustrating afternoon

5 Wheater: After a solid start he faded after the restart, which could be said of many of his team-mates

6 McManus: Solid for the majority of the afternoon, although has to accept some of the blame

7 BATES: Solid in the tackle and unfazed by the task ahead on his first appearance in 15 months;

5 Flood: Had started brightly but a dislocated knee put paid to his first competitive start since March

5 Robson: After a stunning delivery for Boro's opener his influenced waned pretty quickly

5 Thomson: Responsible for picking his pass and he did just that, even if he would have preferred more of the ball

4 Bailey: Far too quiet when he was forced into the middle after Flood's withdrawal;

6 McDonald: The brighter of the two forwards and first off the mark with a close-range header

4 Boyd: Became more and more frustrated as the game wore on, with crosses regularly evading him


Arca (for Flood 11): Enjoyed his outing, busy and lively, although could have scored 6

Kink (for Hoyte 60): Looks full of intent and will need to adapt quickly to the strains of the Championship 5

(not used): Steele (gk), Lita, Miller, Williams, Grounds

IPSWICH TOWN (4-5-1): Fulop 6; Peters 6, McAuley 7, Smith 7, Kennedy 7 (Ainsley 90); Edwards 7 (Lambe 64, 6), Norris 8, LEADBITTER 8, Hyam 6, Walters 8; Priskin 7 (Stead 74). Subs: Murphy (gk), Brown, Healy, Hourihane


GRANT Leadbitter provided the heartbeat and drive from midfield which Boro lacked

Source: Northern_Echo

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