Newsletter #867

Predictably or unpredictably depending upon which camp you fall into, we failed to make any impression at Boro and came away with nul points from a 3-1 defeat and slip to 16th in the table. We have match reports thanks to Jonathan and James.

Also tonight there is plenty of opinion on current form, future form and a fair few requests.

Anyone got any rockets unused from 5th November to utilise strategically prior to Saturday’s meeting with Bolton?

Next game: Bolton Wanderers, home, 3pm Saturday 30 November 2002


In California there is an elevated motorway that comes to a rather sudden end as the local authority ran out of money to continue building. This is a handy illustration of the perplexing form of Manchester City… they build and build until the opponents’ penalty box, and then stop. Although inspiration rather than finance is their problem.

Had they been able to find a way through the stout Boro defence in an even first half, then this result could have been more positive for the Blues, but Ehiogu, Southgate and Co. simply held their line and could not be breached as City’s one idea failed to pay off. They couldn’t get a through ball for Anelka to run on to. Boro knew the tactic and crowded Berkovic every time he had the ball.

Anelka himself didn’t help matters with his refusal to run for anyone but Berkovic, showing little faith in the abilities of Tiatto, Horlock and Wright-Phillips to make a telling pass. He did at least make himself available for Phillips to pass short to – Jensen was again left exposed by Goater’s unwillingness to leave the centre forward’s position.

And so it follows that despite an even first half share of possession, Boro carved out the one real chance – from a corner that was cleared off the line by Tiatto. This was a shape of things to come.

In the 52nd minute, Vidmar broke down the Middlesbrough left only to be floored by a sliding Wright-Phillips challenge. It was a professional’s foul, one that a pro will tell you they will take for the good of the side, and, like Wright-Phillips, they will also accept the mandatory yellow card for it.

However, young Shaun needn’t have bothered. From the inswinging free kick that followed, Ehiogu drifted off the back of Goater and fired a free header into the goal.

Ten minutes later, in an almost carbon copy, Boksic came off the back of Horlock to head in Geremi’s cross from the same spot on the left.

City did briefly threaten after their 67th minute goal – a scrappy affair that trickled into the goal. Greening had cleared his lines vertically and Horlock & Berkovic combined at the edge of the area to bring the ball under control. Horlock’s crossed pass found Goater, whose turn and shot found Anelka, whose own turn and shot just beat Schwartzer.

But any threat City posed was snuffed out by a reckless Wright-Phillips challenge, totally unnecessary as it was on the halfway line, where he slid late with studs showing into Greening. There was never any doubt that he’d receive a second yellow and would be walking down the tunnel.

Middlesbrough kept possession well thereafter, continuing what they had done effectively throughout anyway, transferring the ball from flank to flank quickly and accurately between Greening, Boateng and Geremi, exposing the City’s midfield’s lack of pace as they scurried across to cover.

Job hit the post, Maccorone had a goal disallowed and Boksic missed a sitter as they attacked at will. Eventually, and inevitably, Boro scored a third. Maccarone picked up the ball on the right, cut inside Sun (as he had done at will all afternoon) and Horlock’s calf luckily cleared his goal-bound shot. However, the ball dropped to Geremi, whose shot just went under Schmeichel’s body – the ‘keeper should perhaps have done better.

Much has been made of Keegan’s desire to spend more money and the there have been calls for caution. But Keegan is a winner, and form like this will receive no prizes. If this sort of performance is the height of the board’s ambition then he will walk away sooner rather than later, leaving a squad looking unfinished like that elevated freeway.

Jonathan Haggart (


Picture the scene: walking towards Maine Road, we pass a bookie’s. Look, Kev remarked to me, a