Monday, 8 August 2011

Wet Opening Game v Portsmouth

The day I been waiting for finally arrived, the opening game of the new campaign, even if it meant the earliest start yet to a football season. Rhys Williams had the possibility of playing against his younger brother Ryan Williams, the 17 year old plays for Portsmouth and had mentioned on his twitter account he was in the squad.

The weather wasn’t what you would expect for an opening game of the season, rain jackets and umbrellas were much needed with heavy rain approaching the ground. As I arrived at the stadium quite soaked and found my new seat in the North stand upper, right bang in the middle, a great seat and view.

Impressed with my seat, with only a few minutes to kick off, I watched the players come on to pitch which looked immaculate. We lined up with on loan keeper Carl Ikeme in goal, a defence of Tony McMahon, Matthew Bates, Stephen McManus and Justin Hoyte. In midfield was Nicky Bailey, Rhys Williams with Barry Robson and Joe Bennett playing on the flanks. It was a new position for Joe, I wasn’t quite sure before KO if Hoyte would play in midfield but once the game was under way it became clear Joe was playing in a more attacking role.

With such bad conditions throughout the game, grey clouds and heavy rain hammering down, the floodlights were on early. We started a bit shaky with Portsmouth using the flanks to better affect early on. Boro’s first chance came from a Barry Robson shot struck from around 30 yards out but flying well over. Carl Ikeme made a great save one on one, making himself big to deny Dave Kitson. Boro started to get their passing going. There was great work from McDonald on the left edge of the box, he took 2 players on entering inside the penalty area Scott passed to Emnes who turned and hit the ball low in to the bottom right corner, a great move and finish. Great link up by the front two and encouraging signs that this partnership can really work.

Boro were playing some good football, Emnes had a shot just wide from the edge of box before McDonald hit a shot from the left hand side from similar range. It was so close, just inches away from doubling our lead. It was half time the players ran off to get a break from the wet conditions replacing their soaked strip before coming back out for the second half.

The second half kicked off with Portsmouth replying straight away. David Norris got the ball just out side the box and hit a sweet shot low to the right hand corner. Portsmouth were back in the game, Boro had been stretched.

We soon bounced back in to the lead with some fine football. Bailey found Rhys Williams making a run and played a ball through for Rhys who collected it in the box and coolly tucked in into the net after going one on one with the keeper. Rhys ran over to the corner flag to celebrate and we all went mad celebrating ourselves in the North Stand. At long last the rain had just about stopped it only now became a problem with puddles of water in wide positions and corner flags.

Portsmouth made a double substitution with just under 30 minutes left to play with Kanu coming on and Rhys’s brother Ryan Williams making his debut In the first team. A Special moment for the Williams family. Boro continued to break forward and creating chances, Emnes powerful shot was parred over the bar and Scott McDonald was denied by a great save at the near post.

Portsmouth enjoyed  a good spell which drove us deeper then we wanted. There was a real determination and a togetherness to keep them out. I did think maybe it was time for Smallwood to come on though on the other hand the game was flowing really well with good passing movement, so why alter it? The fourth official announced 5 minutes of injury time, I’m not sure why there was 5 minutes maybe it was all the referees little words with players throughout the game.

One of the Portsmouth subs, Christian Daily hit a ball into the box which deflected off McManus and Bates and in to the path of Varney to slot home from close range. Jammy Portsmouth! It was really cruel on Boro who had deserved the 3 points after plenty possession and chances. I can only remember Portsmouth coming close with a freekick in the 2nd half. It was heart breaking stuff but at the same time a very encouraging opening day of the season display, certainly one of the best in recent times. Bright, quick movement and a real determination and togetherness, the signs are promising for the season ahead. UTB!

You can check my Championship Preview on The Boro at this link below. It’s an Indian site with plenty of football articles worth a look.    

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