Bamford Brace empty Villa Cup hopes
A much changed look to both sides as Steve Bruce made 11 changes to Garry Monk’s 10 in front of a desolate looking Villa Park that had the atmosphere of a reserve match rather than a Cup tie with 11,000 attendees rattling and echoing around the famous old stadium. Wing and Tavernier were the biggest not so surprising surprise inclusions for Boro but probably not half as surprising as the involvement of the Championship’s forgotten goal machine, Ross McCormack who presumably had finally managed to either find the keys to his mansions gates or Steve Bruce’s heart. The desperado came on in the first half for the man who should have been suspended Henri Lansbury but based upon Lansbury’s forty minutes or so on the pitch Steve Bruce probably wished his red card hadn’t been rescinded after all.
It was Villa who first looked like they might get something from the game as a free kick drifted in from the left was headed by Elphick unimpeded into Dimi’s goal. Fortunately the eagle eyed linesman on the far side flagged for an offside to save Boro blushes. The first half itself was fairly uneventful, the best moment when Wing shrugged off the attention of three Villa midfielders to thread a ball out to Roberts wide right who advanced and crossed into the box for Bamford to rise up and hit the crossbar with a perfectly timed if not angled header. Had it gone in it would have been just reward as Boro were the more balanced, composed and threatening of the two “reserve” teams on display.
To think of where Wing and Tavernier normally play their football they did not look out of place and based on tonight’s performances from the pair of them they look ready to do duty in the Championship if called upon. Only Ben Gibson remained from Saturday’s line up against QPR and he himself was duly replaced/rotated with Dael Fry at half time to evenly share the exertions alongside Ayala who managed the full 90 minutes and who fancied a few chances at corners all evening. George was restored at Left Back with Roberts as mentioned previously on the Right side. Howson and Forshaw got more game time in midfield and to be fair looked comfortable throughout. It was that man Wing again from a similar position in the middle of the park who teed up Forshaw for a 25 yard speculative strike which was parried away by Steer in the Villa goal with Tavernier flashing the rebound into the side netting. Fletcher and Bamford provided the attacking threat though it was Bamford who looked by far the more likely to score.
In the second half it was that man Wing again this time feeding Paddy with a beautifully weighted 20 yard ball bypassing Elphick to send Paddy through leaving the despairing Villa CB with no other option than to execute a trip just as Paddy entered the box. It was a penalty and a second yellow for the ex-Bournemouth man as he had earlier received a caution for upending George. Cool as you like Paddy stepped up and a left footed dink down the middle was enough to open the scoring. 1-0 and Boro were well deserving of their lead. I said before the game slightly tongue in cheek that Paddy if given a start needed a hat trick to give Garry Monk something to think about. Just as it entered my mind obligingly this time Tavernier sent in a cross from the left with Bamford ghosting in at the back of the 6 yard box to rise and bag his second goal of the night. Whilst he didn’t quite make it a hat trick he came darn close enough with his first half header to have almost made it a reality.
Downing had come on previously to replace Wing who was looking tired understandably to a chorus of boos from the smattering of Villa fans to be buoyed by “He’s one of our own” from the few hundred Boro fans who should be given first choice of tickets should we eventually go on to achieve the ridiculous. Tavernier thought he had made it three for Boro when he had his close range effort saved on the line which looked about as far over it as Johnson’s cross did on Saturday so I guess some of them you win but I’m happy to not get the benefit when 2-0 up and cruising against ten men! Miller came on for the last ten minutes or so as Monk made his last substitution of the evening to give the lad a run out. Speaking of run outs by this stage apart from the Boro fans just about the entirety of the ground had run out when Boro’s second went in with the Holte end eerily deserted.
All in all a very effective evening which had a few perhaps overly confident Boro moments in the game which is really scraping the barrel when looking for something negative. This side tonight looked as though they could compete quite favourably at the top end of the Championship themselves especially Wing and Tavernier. MOM has to go to Paddy for his two goals and near miss but I wouldn’t put up a strong argument if Wing received the accolade. The Coach trip back North must have been a content relaxing ride for the squad as they now enter the last 16 of the Carabou Cup. Who Boro will draw will be revealed on Wednesday night when its probably drawn out of a Yaks intestine in a remote corner of the middle of nowhere with more entertaining “pairing” errors than a Sunderland back line.
Just over 11,000 turned up at Villa Park to watch last night’s Carabao Cup encounter, which was 15,000 down on the league game ten days ago. Boro witnesses were also thin on the ground with only around 300 estimated to have made the trip from Teesside. With no live feed available for the Diasboro faithful to observe the proceedings we were instead all ears as radio commentary became the medium of choice to stay in the invisible loop.
Ben Gibson was the only man to take to the pitch at kick-off who had also started at the weekend, Garry Monk made ten changes from Saturday’s victory over QPR and Steve Bruce swapped the whole eleven – the Boro boss would have no doubt done the same if Shotton hadn’t been cup-tied, so instead opted to give Gibson and Fry a half each.
It’s clear that the League Cup has become a fixture that clubs just want to negotiate and if you progress then that’s fine – but if not, then well that’s fine also. It was Boro however that were able to seemlessly change their starting eleven without losing their style, rhythm and teamwork. It’s a credit to Garry Monk and his staff that all the players in his squad know how he wants to play and can slot into their respective postions and almost look like they’re regulars.
It was also pleasing that some of the promising youngsters like Marcus Tavernier and Lewis Wing got another opportunity to show what they can do – the maturity of their performances had some observers declaring that they looked like some of the best players on the pitch. This game was also a chance for Patrick Bamford to demonstrate to his manager that he’s in form and can do a job – his two goals will have gone some way to prove his point, plus a calm chip over the keeper for a disallowed offside goal and a header against the bar could have almost given him a hat-trick.
In the end it was a comfortable victory for Boro, the dismissal of Tommy Elphick on the hour mark after he brought down Bamford in the box gained him his second yellow and gave us the lead after Bamford cooly beat the keeper. With Villa now a goal down and a man down it got worse just nine minutes later as Bamford met a Tavernier cross to head in the second at the far post.
Connor Roberts also put in a good display at right back and it wouldn’t weaken Boro if he was the regular starter. In defence, Ayala and Friend got a run out with a clean sheet to their name – plus with Howson and Forshaw getting a full game in the engine room, it means Garry Monk has plenty of match-fit options to call on.
After the match, the Boro boss was very pleased with the evening’s work and said “We did exactly what we wanted to, I thought we were excellent from start to finish. It was a really good team performance. There were changes, but you have to trust your players, and I do. I’ve been working with them since we’ve come in, and we know what we’ve got in terms of what we’re working with. They know exactly what they have to do when they go on the pitch, and exactly what we want them to do.”
All that remains now is for Kim Jong Un to pull us out of the bag and give us a home tie in the draw for the next round of the Carabao Cup ahead of his country being totally obliterated by ‘The Donald’ having a bad hair day (again). I’m just hearing that Kim Jong Un has apparently cancelled and the draw will instead take place in England of all places after the Manchester United versus Burton Albion game this evening – well there’s a novelty!
The distraction of trying to win promotion is put to one side this evening as Boro head back down to Villa Park to see if playing with eleven men for the first hour will give them an edge. Such is the importance of the Carabao Cup that Garry Monk will use it to test out whether his second XI have what it takes to break into his Championship starting line-up.
Quite a lot has changed since those who took to the field against Scunthorpe in the hope of impressing the manager. Stuart Downing made his first appearance as a sub under Monk after being told he was not in the Boro boss’s plans – that 30 minute energetic cameo seemed to have convinced his manager that he was going to be an integral part of the team. If you look at the team for that second round match, it’s interesting to see who at the time was not regarded as a league starter in the previous three league games with five of those graduating to become regular starters (shown in bold) by the Aston Villa league game.
|Prior to Cup (Games 2-4)
|Darren Randolph||Dimi Konstantopoulos||Darren Randolph|
|Cyrus Christie||Connor Roberts||Cyrus Christie|
|Dael Fry||Dael Fry||Dael Fry|
|Ben Gibson||Daniel Ayala||Ben Gibson|
|George Friend||Fábio Da Silva||Fábio Da Silva|
|Adam Clayton||Lewis Baker||Lewis Baker|
|Adam Forshaw||Adam Forshaw||Adam Clayton|
|Jonny Howson||Grant Leadbitter
(Lewis Wing 80′)
|Patrick Bamford||Marcus Tavernier
(Stewart Downing 64′)
|Britt Assombalonga||Ashley Fletcher
(Rudy Gestede 81′)
|Rudy Gestede||Adama Traoré||Adama Traoré|
As you can see from the list, Fabio has taken the left-back slot and Dael Fry has remained in front of a fit Ayala to become the main man in central defence. In the middle, Baker has played his way into being a regular starter as the attacking midfielder of choice and Grant Leadbitter has also been restored to the first eleven after his commanding performance in the Carabao Cup. We should also not forget that it was in the game against Scunthorpe that we started to see an Adama with an end product and he’s now regarded has a big miss because of his suspension.
It’s unclear whether some of the youngsters will get a chance tonight as there is also an EFL Trophy game at Accrington Stanley being played at the same time – I guess it depends whether Garry Monk is serious about the prospects of Marcus Tavernier and Lewis Wing being involved in the first-team squad. I suspect he may feel he currently has enough options at his disposal to avoid disrupting the U23 squad.
Though since the League Cup has become somewhat of low priority in the grand scheme of things, the Boro manager will no doubt rest some players. An added bonus for the suspended Traore and Clayton means these EFL Cup games count towards their respective bans – so Clayton appears to have timed his fifth yellow card perfectly to miss the game that he was probably never going to play in.
I suspect Dimi will get the gloves, with probably a back four of Roberts, Ayala, Friend plus Ben or Fry stepping in for the cup-tied Shotton. In midfield, I can’t see Leadbitter playing after taking a knock against QPR, so Howson and Forshaw will probably get the nod. The tricky bit will be deciding on who plays in attack – Bamford is fresh after being overlooked recently and Fletcher probably could do with more pitch time but if Tavernier doesn’t get promoted then will Monk risk Johnson or Assombalonga? Braithwaite is training again but it doesn’t sound like he’s completely ready – so some players may be asked to play an hour and share the burden.
In the end the League Cup hasn’t been something Boro have had much of a go at in the last ten years or so. As you can see from the table below, other than the quarter-final in our promotion year, Boro have not shown much enthusiasm for the competition. OK, we made the last eight in 2012-13 but that was mainly down to the luck of the draw, having faced only Bury, Gillingham, Preston and Sunderland before getting knocked out by Swansea.
|2015-16||QF||Everton (A)||0-2||Man Utd (4th round)|
|2014-15||3||Liverpool (A)||2-2 (14-13)|
|2013-14||1||Accrington Stanley (H)||1-2|
|2012-13||QF||Swansea City (A)||0-1||Sunderland (4th round)|
|2011-14||3||Crytal Palace (A)||1-2|
|2009-10||1||Nottingham Forest (A)||1-2|
|2008-09||2||Manchester United (A)||1-3|
|2007-08||2||Tottenham Hotspurs (A)||0-2|
I’m sure Garry Monk would not fancy the prospect of having to stretch his resources by playing Europa League football next season if he was to gain promotion – so lifting the trophy may be a poison chalice he’s prefer to avoid. However, I’m sure the Boro manager would prefer to develop a winning mentality and is it a coincidence that our best run in the cup was also our promotion year? OK, the final is a long was off but collecting a scalp or two may be the tonic that galvanises a promotion campaign.
After the last 4.00am event at the top of a Beijing sky-scraper, I’m not entirely sure where and when the fourth round draw for the cup is being held this time. Perhaps it will be held in a missile silo in North Korea with Kim Jong Un drawing the home teams and his US basketball mate Dennis Rodman drawing the away teams – I just hope that when they press the button to release the balls they don’t hit the wrong one, otherwise all living creatures on the planet may bear a close resemblance to the iconic buffalo skull on the Carabao can!
So will Boro find having an extra man on the pitch makes it easier to arrest the progress of the Villains? or will we find ourselves being sent down and out as our silky skills remain on the bench. As usual, predictions on score, scorers and team selection – plus what does Patrick Bamford need to do to impress Garry Monk?