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Middlesbrough 0 Plymouth Argyle 1
Published : 02 Nov 2009 10:10:00
Middlesbrough 0 Plymouth Argyle 1 HIS first match in charge of Celtic ended in a 5-0 hammering, but the season still ended in title celebrations at Parkhead. It is little wonder then that Gordon Strachan is not too concerned after opening a new chapter of his career with another defeat. Had Gareth Southgate survived this long he would have been fearing the sack this morning after another day of the sort of home woe at the Riverside Stadium which ultimately cost him his job. But in Strachan, chairman Steve Gibsons choice to succeed Southgate, the majority of fans are satisfied with the appointment and optimistic the little Scotsman with a dry sense of humour can put the smiles back on their faces. Match one of his reign might have ended in a narrow loss courtesy of Jamie Mackies 64th minute winner, it might also have ended with Middlesbrough dropping below the Championships play-off zone in front of a crowd that rose above 21,000 again. But he needs to be given time to address the failings of the previous regime, having inherited a squad short on confidence on Teesside turf and one Strachan has already highlighted lacks the type of experience he would prefer. The fans will be more patient now, said Julio Arca, recalled to the starting line-up by his new manager, albeit in a less familiar role on the right. We lost and it was disappointing but the fans will give him time. He has only been here a week. They will have to be patient and give him time. They appreciate it takes time for a manager to put his stamp on things. He needs time to show what he can do with the players and see what they can do for him. Everyone needs time. We need time to get used to him and he will need time to get used to us. This week has been good because we have trained all week with him, we know what he is looking for. Hopefully things will work out. He wants to improve players, make them play better to get promotion. Strachan seemed relaxed beforehand, as he signed autographs from the dug-out and waved to every corner of the ground following his belated entrance out of the tunnel. By full-time he had every right to feel more aggrieved. Perhaps he might approach things differently if a similar result and performance is being repeated a few weeks into his tenure. But after his first match in charge he was complimentary towards his players rather than critical. He has been very calm with us, said Arca, with Boro three points short of second place and just as many above 12th in the Championship. The manager showed how much experience he has, he has been in the game for a long time. He told us what he wants us to do. At the end he was as disappointed as us, but he said we deserved to win the game. We have not seen the angry side of him yet. We know how he can be, if performances are really bad we will see the other side of him. But this time the lads performed really hard, we just didnt score, there was not too much wrong. Plymouth had started the day second from bottom and without a clean sheet all season, meaning expectations were high around the Riverside, with most expecting Strachan to open in perfect fashion. It soon became clear that was not going to be the case. Plymouth, who went close in the opening half when winger Alan Judge struck inches wide and goalkeeper Brad Jones denied Karl Duguid with a save low to his right, never looked like conceding. On the one occasion Middlesbrough broke them down, centre- back Shane Lowry made an exceptional block on six yards from Marvin Emnes after Adam Johnsons burst into the box from the left. With options limited, Strachan could not change things too much, but he did try to find more creativity by including Arca on the right flank. He also brought on Marcus Bent for his first piece of action since his two-month loan from Birmingham. Neither decision really paid off. Arca performed well after being asked to tuck in and support the forwards, but the tactic still failed to improve the tally of seven goals from the first eight matches at the Riverside. Everyone has been excited to be working with him and training really hard to be in the team. We didnt know the team until late on Friday, so everyone has had to push hard to be in the team all week, said Arca. Training has been a bit different, more intense. He has changed things, he likes us to play football more. Even at the end when we started to put balls in the box, he said we should have carried on playing football and waited for the right chance. Having already waved away a couple of decent appeals for a penalty, referee Mick Russell did do his best to help Middlesbrough claw themselves level after Mackies opener. He awarded a dubious spotkick when Sean St Ledger was barged to the floor when he ran into Kari Arnason after a neat one-two with Leroy Lita. Johnson, with nine goals to his name this season, side-footed the kick off the wrong side of the post. It meant that Plymouth were left to celebrate a one-goal victory that was handed to them on a plate by David Wheater just after the hour. A searching long ball from Gary Sawyer was not dealt with properly by Wheater, who was brushed aside with ease by the powerful Mackie. The former Exeter City striker then had the confidence to roll his shot underneath Jones to find the net. Everyone is disappointed after losing a game, but we will go to Crystal Palace next week and start again, said Arca. Its a long season, we have only played 15 games. Theres plenty to do. We just need to improve at home. We were looking forward to winning the game and we created enough chances to win, it was just a little mistake and they took advantage of that to score. Thats all they did. Sometimes you deserve to win and you dont, thats football. Match facts Goals: 0-1: Mackie (64, nipped in front of Wheater before applying low finish underneath Jones) Bookings: Fletcher (79, dissent) Referee: Mick Russell (Kidderminster) an awful game and even the penalty he handed to Boro was dodgy 3 Attendance: 21,141 Entertainment: MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): 7 Jones: Made a couple of quality stops, preventing the scoreline from being worse. 5 Hoyte: Needs to offer far more going forward, particularly his final ball. 5 Wheater: Will be frustrated with the way he allowed Mackie in, having won everything until then. 7 St Ledger: Solid enough and has slotted in well since his move from Preston. 6 Pogatetz: A suspected fractured cheekbone cut short his return and now faces a long spell out 6 Arca: Did what was asked of him on the right, tucking inside to help the midfield and strikers. 5 ONeil: Has had better days this season and Strachan needs him to recapture his best. 6 Williams: Was the man asked to sit deeper and break things up, which he did. 7 JOHNSON: Always the most likely candidate to spark Boro into life. But hit an awful penalty. 6Lita: One of his most energetic displays to date, but failed to threaten 5Emnes: Should have scored first half, faded afterwards Subs: Bent (for Emnes 46): Would have preferred a stronger impact 5 Grounds (for Pogatetz 53): Comfortable return to action 5 Yeates (for Arca 87) (not used): Coyne (gk), McMahon, Digard, Franks. PLYMOUTH ARGYLE (4-4-2): Larrieu 6; Gray 6, LOWRY 8, Arnason 7, Sawyer 6; Judge 7 (Clark 81), Fletcher 6, Duguid 6, Folly 5; Gow 5 (Barnes 81), Mackie 7. Subs (not used): Letheran, Paterson, Timar, Sheridan, Mason. MAN OF THE MATCH SHANE Lowry a tower of strength at the heart of the Plymouth defence.