Discussing Rovers’ recent nine-game unbeaten run and other matters early this week, a pal said:”I’m not bothered about anything as long as we keep winning.”
I had to point out that we’ve actually only won one of the last four – the only home game amid three away draws – but Saturday’s late equaliser at the Riverside felt so much like a winner you can forgive the slightly exaggerated perception.
And what exactly is win at home, draw away other than promotion form?
Saturday’s late strike was precisely the kind which a team building momentum forces its will upon a rival with.
Let’s not fool ourselves, it was, Simon Eastwood’s performance excepted, a pretty poor Rovers display by any standards.
And you would have to be pretty blinkered not to spot that Chris Brown’s nudge on the keeper as Shane Duffy went for the ball was a training-round routine designed to take the goalie out.
Or to claim that it was in any way deserved after an afternoon on which Gary Bowyer’s side were second best by some distance.
Heck, there may even have been a handball by Duffy and an offside in there too.
Good! Perfect! Just a pity it wasn’t against the Clarets then!
As it occurred so late of course it became the major talking point afterwards.
Not much attention was directed towards Boro’s opener, which involved Adam Henley being grappled to the ground in a routine just as illegal.
I was quite relieved that it all took place in an anodyne, antiseptic new stadium and not at Ayresome Park.
Most of the old grounds replaced by the new eyesores – Baseball Ground, Ayresome, Roker, Maine Road – were considerably more hostile environments and you were always pretty pleased to be on the road out of Middlesbrough unscathed.
Having escaped on and off the field and now firmly established in the mythical top six for the first time since relegation, I reckon there’s no point keeping sights lowered on a play-off spot.
If nobody seems too hell-bent on claiming automatic spots Rovers jolly well should be as long as they continue to string results together.
Sheffield Wednesday at home is a game anyone with any kind of promotion aspirations should be winning but as we know too well, anyone is capable of beating anyone else and we are not without a history of doing things the hard way.
Rovers will need to watch Owls industrious striker Stevie May, a maverick Scotsman with a pony-tail who looks like he would be equally at home cleaning your windows with his arse hanging out of his jeans and a fag between his lips or playing bass in a Deep Purple tribute act, but who returned to goalscoring ways last week and is a handful.
January will be interesting if Rovers are still knocking on the door.
We may never have this chance again so do Venkys disregard the woolly FFP threats and back Bowyer to some tune in the market and hang the consequences?
Imagine bringing in players with the ability and experience of Friedel, Mahon, Bent and Berkovic as we did during the 2000-01 campaign.
We heard a lot of garbage from the Raos about the extravagant quality they were looking to bring in back when it wasn’t really what was needed.
From November 2001 Uncle Jack’s legacy brought in Bent, Friedel, Berkovic and Mahon. Imagine an infusion of quality like that into this side?
Perhaps it’s now time to put some proper money where those mouths were.
Here’s last week’s which I never got the chance to upload
The more football I watch, the more I’m convinced it’s all a series of happy or unhappy accidents.
The better teams do seem to have more than their share of profit through them of course but for all the credit we give managers and coaches for tactical acumen and strategy, it only ever takes a moment’s lapse of concentration from a player to undo all the planning.
So it was on Saturday when Leeds, looking to be coasting without too much discomfort towards three points, pressed the self-destruct button which a club infected with even more years than ourselves of dysfunction and chaos almost inevitably manages to locate.
In an incident identical to a mix-up at Cardiff in their previous away game, keeper and defender failed to deal with another in a series of vaguely hopeful Rovers through balls and undid 70 minutes of solid work during which they had laid the foundations for the classic “clean sheet:one point-anything else:bonus” awayday performance.
When you’re a striker whose form – and even place in the side – is up for the beginnings of debate, there can be no more welcome scenario and Jordan Rhodes will never have an easier job on the end of a move which his colleagues had so little to do with!
Even then, had Antenucci’s shot gone in off the post, Ewood regulars would have had few complaints.
A group of chaps behind me were bemoaning Gary Bowyer’s decision to replace Rudy Gestede with the hitherto largely ineffectual Luke Varney.
“What an idiot, taking his top scorer off,” they grumbled.
But I had a feeling all last week that Varney would have something to contribute soon.
I rebuked a fan who took to Twitter to belittle his admittedly meagre efforts thus far and defended his honour on the basis that as far as I know he does his work in training like a good pro and gets little match action to sharpen his game.
And in deference to the wise old men of the Riverside, he does offer a more mobile option than Gestede with his darting runs giving defenders the headache of two forwards making the diagional thrusts.
While Bowyer was exhorting the crowd to step it up – which they did magnificently – he was also almost simultaneously contradicting himself by, in the very next hand gesture less than a second later, urging the back four and midfield to go deeper into their own half.
Rovers were even practising that dark art which always so infuriates home supporters, time-wasting, taking their time with throws and goal-kicks.
But somehow a break was fashioned and when I saw Varney dart for the box I knew what was coming.
He, the defender and the ref all did what they thought right and while it will be debated in perpetuity whether he dived or not, I really don’t care.
I don’t – unlike some – make too much of a fuss when we concede contentious spot-kicks and I certainly don’t when it’s us that benefits.
Those type of comebacks are the kind that thrill fans and keep you in memories and anecdotes for years.
The sight and sound of my 10-year-old shrieking with delight as Rhodes bore down for his first then put his penalty away – remember, he’d have probably been off that duty had he missed another – will stay with me as long as I live, dad and daughter high-fiving and jumping about in the ecstasy only football can transport you out of abject despair.
It served the unpleasant element of the Leeds support who wrecked a pub they were welcomed into right and I hear there were more unsavoury scenes after. Bringing 7,000 to a Championship game is a remarkable feat but let’s hope the decent among them shop the miscreants and ensure they are banned from subsequent trips.
Onto Middlesbrough then, with the likelihood that Simon Eastwood will be in goal.
It’s not ideal – I understand there are reasons which preclude Robinson from consideration – but as I said last week, a team which snatches wins or draws from the jaws of defeat creates its own belief and conviction that it will not lose games.
Rovers could be on their way to being one of those teams for whom the happy accidents happen often.