No Bamford in the squad was a surprise considering that we needed to score goals. Stuani in his place on the bench was fair enough I suppose but I couldn’t understand why Gestede was even on that same bench. It appeared to me that the deep psyche was that if we are losing throw everything including the kitchen sink into the box, great tactical masterplan!
Barragan selected wide right instead of Fabio? Well that just completely beggared belief especially with the stiff and returning Chambers behind him. SA did at least go with three at the back but it was evident from the off that the midfield was all at sea and the backline hadn’t a clue who was supposed to be where and picking up who. The opening seconds saw our right side unsurprisingly ripped apart and Bournemouth were firing crosses in for fun. The inevitable goal occurred in a matter of seconds. 1-0 down and we were simply awful.
Things didn’t improve and Bournemouth continued to play, tease and toy with us. This was the worst performance from any Boro side I have witnessed since Charlton last season. Considering the importance of the game, the organisation, levels of concentration and commitment just simply didn’t exist. It became more farcical when another dithering defensive display led to Bournemouth going two up, it wasn’t even comedic just simply tragic. Ramirez then managed to get himself booked for a dive that was ten minutes too late for a non-contact challenge. Minutes later with a Negredo pile driving effort sandwiched in between Gaston went into a ridiculous lunge near the opposition corner flag, second yellow and off he went with just twenty minutes registered on the clock (hopefully never to be seen in a Boro shirt again).
Just before that Agnew had been about to bring Traore on presumably for Chambers to try and have a go at the Bournemouth defence. Gaston’s removal instead saw Forshaw brought onto wide left with George dropping into LB with Barragan off and Downing switching to the right in a 441. Confused? I certainly was! On twenty nine minutes Negredo headed down to de Roon who took a long range volley which Boruc done well to tip past for a corner. Minutes later King then stamped on de Roon but the Ref seemingly didn’t see anything wrong and it looked to me that de Roon will be subject to a metatarsal x-ray but despite that he hobbled back on with Fabio told to sit back on the bench. Two minutes later de Roon eventually had to succumb and leave the field. Thirty six minutes gone, one sending off, two subs on and at this point Boro were playing with a back eight, still couldn’t get a tackle in, losing 2-0 yet Aggers puts a full back on! Heaven knows what Gibson and Bausor were thinking but I sincerely hope it was the same as me.
Gosling suddenly pulled up just before half time as Boro where about to take a throw in with an apparent existing injury because nobody was near him. As Cooke then came on for Gosling the Boro
fans broke into a chorus of “Ugo Ehiogu tra la la la la” which was by far the best Boro performance of the day. After a slip up by the aforementioned Cooke with a sliced clearance Chambers hit a twenty yard volley that probably ended up in Penzance. The half time whistle shortly followed much to Boro’s relief and there ended one of the worst performances I have witnessed in a long time. Tactically all over the place, disorganised and despite what the fitness and medical team thought Chambers looked rusty as heck and in my opinion should have made way instead of Barragan who at least was match fit.
The team performance was completely unrecognisable from Monday night but surprisingly as on Monday when Clayton gave away the fee kick for Arsenal’s opener he was at fault for both Bournemouth goals today. As determined, energetic and committed he undoubtedly is his poor decision making is costing us. That said the rest of the side Negredo apart were absolute tosh, garbage, brown smelly stuff stuck to the sole of your shoe.
The first half spoke volumes as to any future of Steve Agnew’s tenure as Boro Coach on a permanent basis. He now had forty five minutes to restore any shred of personal credibility and to save Boro’s season. Being honest at this stage it looked totally transparent that Aggers was finished in his hope of retaining the position as were Boro’s hopes of survival. My thoughts were that as gut wrenchingly painful as it was maybe it’s a good thing. Today was the footballing forty five minute equivalent of taking your 15 year old family Labrador to the Vets for the last time, heart-breaking, but at least the pain and suffering is over with. Little did I know what the second half had in store?
As the second half started unsurprisingly there were no Boro subs made, not that it would have made an iota of difference to the woeful proceedings. The second half started at a fairly lethargic pace in the South Coast sunshine with Boro getting a corner four minutes into it but Ayala headed well over. The next five minutes saw more of Boro being under the cosh with Negredo literally under the cosh or at least on the receiving end of Francis’s forearm smash as we tried to mount an attack. After some treatment Alvaro returned to the field of play to pick up a loose ball from a corner but smashed it well over the goal which seems to have been a Boro trademark all season.
On 56 minutes Afobe should have scored but Guzan got down to save Boro’s blushes and thankfully pushed the effort wide. Friend then picked up a yellow after fortunately avoiding one in the first half. A few minutes later George definitely should have picked up a second yellow for a full on challenge but the Ref at this point was clearly feeling sympathy at Boro’s spineless plight. The game then descended into attack and defend with Boro doing all the defending and none of the attacking as the possession stats showed.
Every pass in a yellow shirt went short, got stuck in feet or simply missed the intended target and then after another defensive series of farcical proportions Ayala was rounded by Pugh and 3-0 to the Cherries. After the restart Ayala took his frustration out on Pugh and chopped him down to pick up a yellow. Like their apt shirt colour Boro were now attracting Yellow cards at an alarming rate and just to rub salt into the wounds Swansea had registered their second against Stoke and ten man Hull had simultaneously taken the lead against Watford. News was filtering through that Hull had went 2-0 up just as Bournemouth worked a pantomime free kick to make it 4-0 as Clayton (or Forshaw) broke from the end of the wall, was dribbled around with ease to see the net bulge from 18 yards out. Then incredibly with fifteen minutes to go the Cherries missed their easiest chance of the afternoon as the ball rolled right across the Boro goal line from Stanislas with nobody to tap in.
Gestede was forlornly brought on for Negredo who had thanklessly ran himself ragged and we then just started to hump long balls up to him who won his headers but then Bournemouth just collected the ball and broke forward again. I have no idea what the logic was in bringing Gestede on but it was obvious there was no tactical intent, just simply hump it long and hope. Fortunately with two minutes left Bournemouth Sub Mousset blasted a shot over from 6 yards out when hitting the target would have been easier. The whistle went and with it Middlesbrough FC’s premiership nightmare was over.
We have conceded 4 goals only twice this season and that Steve Agnew was in charge for both of them along with the Charlton debacle last year tells me that despite some more entertaining football he is most definitely not the man to take Boro anywhere let alone forward. This Season the Boro fans have been nothing less than fantastic. It is a shame that the club have disrespected them in just about every way possible from kits to signings, management insults and the most boring embarrassing performances in football history. Nine points from safety and down without a fight and it feels right now that not once did we truly give it a go or in all honesty if that was ever the genuine intent. To end the Premiership season with a weaker team than the Championship side that got us here now needs answering.