Category Archives: Middlesbrough

Championship Preview: Middlesbrough V Cardiff City

Cardiff City have stormed into the play-off places after a winning run of six games. This weekend they will travel to their former manager’s team Middlesbrough, one of the teams now looking to knock City out of the top six.

In midweek Middlesbrough were beaten 3-1 at home by Bristol City, while Cardiff travelled to Bournemouth and picked up a 2-1 win. Middlesbrough were blown away in the first half against Bristol City as the Robins took a three-goal lead. Dael Fry got a late consolation for Boro’, who dropped down to ninth place.

Cardiff led two goals to nil after a dominant first half performance, with goals from Sean Morrison and a Kieffer Moore penalty. Shane Long, who came on as a sub, pulled one back for the host’s but despite forcing Cardiff in to defending most of the second half the Cherries were unable to find a second. The result meant Cardiff moved above Bournemouth into sixth place.

Team News

For Middlesbrough Ashley Fetcher has been ruled out of this game after pulling up in the early stages of the game on Tuesday. Yannick Bolasie and Marcus Tavernier have both been training but manager Neil Warnock has ruled them out of the visit of Cardiff:

“Tav and Yannick are both training, but we have to be careful with them,” Warnock said.

They are getting better, but with so many games coming up you don’t want to take unnecessary risks.

“Bolasie trained really well yesterday, and we’re going to have a meeting today to check up on him. Apparently he’s a week away.”

Former Cardiff winger Nathaniel Mendez-Lang could get his first start against his former club. The former Bluebird had his contact terminated on the eve of the season for what Cardiff called a “Serious breach of contact”. Information came out in January that he had twice shown traces of cocaine in his system resulting in two bans.

Cardiff will be glad that Joe Ralls will be in contention for the match after an ankle injury. Junior Hoilett is also available for the match squad but despite 60 minutes for the under 23’s this week Lee Tomlin is not fit enough yet for first team action. Jordi Osei-Tutu could be back for the 8th of March.

Recent Form and Past Meetings

Middlesbrough have lost five of their last eight, with just two wins. Despite the poor form they did manage a 2-0 away victory at Reading along with a goalless draw at leaders Norwich City.

Cardiff are unbeaten in eight games, having won six in a row. Four of these wins have come away from Cardiff City Stadium.

The teams drew 1-1 earlier in the season George Saville giving Middlesbrough a half time lead lead before Sheyi Ojo equalised. Prior to that The Bluebirds have won the previous four meetings.

The last win for the home side came in 2016. It may be a good omen for the hosts as that season they went on to finish second.

Managers Thoughts

Neil Warnock speaking ahead of the game against his former side:

“There’s probably one or two players there who I upset as well and no doubt tomorrow they’ll like to show me what they can do.

“But overall I took most of them there and I think they’ve got a great squad.

“I don’t think anyone will expect us to get anything with the form they’re in and then us getting beat the other night.

“But we’ve got to come up with a way of giving them a good game.

“I don’t think there are many teams at the moment who could beat Cardiff the way that they’re playing.

“I think they had 26% possession the other night against Bournemouth. All these people who want a certain style of football… well what about winning games and getting up the table like Mick has done?

“It’s the right way to go about it – winning games.

“We know we’ll have to contend with 10 long throws, 10 corner kicks and 10 free-kicks all coming in and we’ll have to cope with it or we’ll just be another notch on their gun.

“We haven’t got players the size of Morrison or Flinty but we have to find a way to cope with it. It’s all within the laws of the game.

“They’ve not lost a game since Mick came and they’re not going to change their style, and why should they? Mick’s not bothered about the beauty of football. He knows how to win games and that’s what football is about.

“Do you think Cardiff fans will be mad at him for all the long throws if they get to the Premier League? Course they won’t. It’s a fallacy all this style and what have you. Bournemouth had the style the other night but it was all in their own half!

“It’s up to us to find a way to cope with them.”

Cardiff Manager Mick McCarthy:

“We’ve got to travel up there, and I know we’ll be expecting a really tough game.

“They got beaten by Bristol City in midweek, so they’ll be wanting a reaction.

“I’m looking forward to the game. We’re all looking forward to the games because we’re winning them, and let’s hope that continues. If the players keep playing the way they have been, there’s no reason why we should be beaten.

“If anyone ever says one of my teams is nice to play against, I’d be annoyed and insulted. The best teams are horrible to play against, for whatever reason.

“Neil’s teams are likewise. If we came off on Saturday and I said to him: “You were really pleasant to play against”, I think he’d be as annoyed as I would be – and that’s not going to be the case.”

Key Players

Nathaniel Mendez-Lang could come back to haunt Cardiff. Cardiff’s players and supporters will know very well the quality of the winger. Neil Warnock was the man to bring him to City and knows how to get the best out of the player. He came play either side so Cardiff’s wing backs, Joe Bennett and Perry Ng will need to be at the top of their game.

The point of the attack and the first line of defence. Kieffer Moore’s contribution for Cardiff this season is about more than his 15 goals. Leading the front line and holding up the ball to play in players like Harry Wilson and Sheyi Ojo. But when they are without the ball Moore is the first line of defence pressing down defenders.

Prediction; Middlesbrough 1 v 1 Cardiff City

Weekend Championship Round up

Games are staring to come along quickly as the Championship rolls on. Readings good form continues as they lead the table. Bristol City remain second but there are just four points between them and 14th placed Huddersfield.

East Midlands Derby

Friday night saw the East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby County. It was the 108th meeting of the long time rivals.

The two side were up for this game, Lyle Taylor shot forcing a good save from David Marshall. Marshall’s opposite number Brice Samba was also tested in the first half. Graeme Shinnies curling shot met by the diving hand of the Forest Keeper.

It was Derby who scored first after 30 minutes. Martyn Waghorn’s with a free kick the self-isolating Wayne Rooney would be proud to claim. Waghorn lifted the ball over wall and it clipped the inside of the bar to go in the net.

Derby thought they had won it when some clever footwork from Tom Lawrence allowed him to slide a ball into Jozwiak who found the net. Jozwiak wheeled off in celebration but the assistant’s flag was up. Waghorn in an offside position was deemed to be interfering with play.

Forest Manager Chris Hughton told BBC Radio Nottingham:

“I wasn’t too happy with the first half performance. I thought we needed to be better on the ball and our movement needed to be better against a team who were happy to defend in a really good shape”.

After seeing his side second goal ruled out Phillip Cocu told BBC Radio Derby:

“I don’t see any offside. The goalkeeper reaches for the corner where the shot goes, so the view is not blocked. The frustration is quite big here”.

Reading Go Five Clear

Championships leaders Reading won their sixth game of season clinically beating Rotherham 3-0. Reading took the lead towards the end of the first half though Yakou Meite.

The striker doubled the home side lead on 74 minutes, with an overhead kick. From a corner he control the ball with his chest before performing an overhead kick into the top corner of the net. A good win was finished in stoppage time with a Lucas Joao penalty.

Reading manager Veljko Paunovic said:

“What we saw in our team was the consistency of getting the job done, doing your job for the team. You also have to be patient, have a strong mentality and not get frustrated if our game plan is not working. And don’t ever give up”.

Rotherham drop to 18th place and manager Paul Warne told BBC Radio Sheffield:

“We were away from home against top of the league and had lots of possession in the first half and we were the only side that played on the front foot. We passed the ball really well without creating enough clear cut chances and obviously for them to score the first time they were in our box was a massive sucker punch”.

Mepham Saves a Point

Late drama as Chris Mepham’s 94th minute goal saved a point for Bournemouth. Watford had lead since the 12 minute from Stipe Perrica’s first goal for the club.

Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly was lucky to only see a yellow card for his poor challenge after just two minutes. Lunging in late on Ismaila Sarr catching the Watford player above the knee.

Watford’s goal came after Sarr’s ball across the box from the right was met a sliding Perrica who simply directed the ball into the net. Ismaila Sarr had the chance to make it too but his shot was stopped by a strong right hand from Asmir Begovic.

Begovic kept his in it again saving from Quina before quickly pushing the ball away from Pedro. Bournemouth pressed for an equaliser but found resilient Watford defencing and a in form Ben Forster.

Josh king saw his late header turned over the bar by Forster. However Bournemouth got their reward from the corner. Forster punched the ball away but the return ball in the box was turned in by Mepham.

The draw means Watford stay in 3rd and Bournemouth 4th.

Away Wins

There were away wins For Blackburn (4-0 v Coventry), Luton (1-0 v Sheffield Wednesday) and Preston (2-1 v Huddersfield) on Saturday.

Coventry were reduced to 10 men after 14 minutes with Michael Rose receiving a straight red for a push in the box. Adam Armstrong scored from the spot. Armstrong got a second after 49 minutes getting on the end of Brereton’s though ball. Harvey Elliott made it three on 62 minutes assisted again from Brereton. Rovers wrapped up a fine display with a fourth on 88 minutes from Sam Gallagher.

Sheffield Wednesday remain bottom after a 1-0 home defeat to Luton. Wednesday’s Joost van Aken saw red for a reckless high challenge. The hatters took advantage of the extra man to get the win with Pelly Ruddock scoring on 74 minutes.

While they can’t win at home Preston are still unbeaten on the road. Frazier Campbell’s 8th minute goal gave Huddersfield a half time lead. A curling effort from Alan Browne levelled the game on 51 minutes. Just two minutes later Browne found the net again. This time looping a soft punch from the keeper back into the goal. Naby Sarr got a red card for pulling down Riis Jakobsen.

Stoke up to 8th

Stoke stormed into a 3-0 lead after an hour. A free head for Steven Fletcher after nine minutes, was followed by a James McClean low shot into the near post. On the hour mark Tyrese Campbell made it three cutting inside to the edge of the box and curling a shot into the far corner. Brentford pulled two back thanks to sub Marcus Forss but Stoke held on to take their unbeaten run to seven games.

Norwich got their third straight league win after beating pointless Wycombe 2-1 at Carrow Road. Timo Pukki gave Norwich the lead early on. Scot Kashket got the goal that got Wycombe level after some poor Norwich defending. Wycombe may have thought they had their first championship point but there was late drama. Mario Vrancic 91st minute free kick went straight into the top corner with the Wycombe wall seamingly rooted to the floor. Adam Idah was shown a red card for appearing to push Joe Jacobson to the floor.

Warnock Returns

Middlesbrough left Cardiff with a point on Neil Warnock’s first visit to Cardiff City Stadium since leaving the Bluebirds. It was a classic Warnock display from Boro’ who set out early to slow the game and frustrate Cardiff. The visitors took the lead with George Saville’s header lopped in the Cardiff goal. Cardiff took the game to Boro in the second half but could not find the final touch. Their hard work did get them level with Sheyi Ojo second goal since signing from Liverpool.

Jamal Lowe smashed in on 51 minutes to give Swansea the lead at Ashton Gate. It was his second goal for Swansea. Putting it in off his left foot turning towards goal. Bristol City equalised from a Nahki Wells penalty. Conner Roberts judged to have brought down Semenyo Antoine just inside the area. A soft penalty but dispatched down the middle with power from Wells. The result sees Bristol City remain in second and Swansea in 6th.

At The Den two goals in two minutes at the end of the first half saw Millwall and Barnsley share the points. Alex Mowatt stunning volley from the edge of the area gave Barnsley the lead. Just a minute later Jake Cooper rose above everyone else to head home for Millwall.

A goalless draw at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium as QPR met Birmingham City. Scott Hogan did find the net for City but was ruled offside. QPR are 16th while Brimingham are 17th.

The championship rolls on to Tuesday and Wednesday again this week with Blackburn hosting leaders Reading and Bournemouth v Bristol City as the stand out games.

Cardiff City v Middlesbrough Championship preview

Neil Warnock returns to Cardiff for the first time since leaving the Welsh club. He’ll bring his Middlesbrough side to face the club he took to the Premier League in 2018. Warnock faced the Bluebirds at the end of last season with Cardiff winning 3-1 at the Riverside.

Middlesbrough are unbeaten in five matches since their opening day loss to Watford. Their last match saw them win away at Bristol City. Cardiff trail Boro by a point and will be looking for their first win at Cardiff City Stadium.

Cardiff have won the last four meetings between the sides. Although, history suggests that this game could go either way. Over the last 14 games the sides have managed seven wins apiece. This should be a close encounter as 10 of theses games have been decided by a single goal. With both managers setting their teams up to be hard to beat, this is unlikely to be an exception.

Team News

Neil Harris confirmed in his press conference that left back Greg Cunningham will be out for four to six weeks. Cunningham went off injured in last Saturday’s win at Preston.

On his other injured players, Harris said:

“The other three are edging closer. Jordi (Osei-Tutu) and Benno (Joe Bennett) have been on the grass today. We could have the possibility of one, both or neither available.

“Tommo (Lee Tomlin) is getting closer but not for tomorrow”.

Middlesbrough are meanwhile likely to be without Britt Assombalonga.

Speaking at his press conference, Warnock said:

“From yesterday I don’t think he’s got much of a chance but we’ll see this afternoon.

“Its just a nick on the adductor on the side of the groin and it just didn’t feel right”.

They are also still without last seasons top scorer, Ashley Fletcher who is ruled out until January with a hamstring injury.

The Managers Thoughts

Both managers spoke about the heavy schedule of upcoming fixtures. Championship games are coming thick and fast after the late start to this season.

Neil Warnock called the EFL to discuss the fixture scheduling. After the trip to Bristol City on Tuesday, they travel to Cardiff for this weekends game.

At his press conference on Monday, Warnock gave details of his call to the EFL, he said:

” It was just how it fell, they did look at it but there was nothing they could do about it”.

Warnock continued:

“We’ll be traveling back to Teeside after the Bristol game and then back to Cardiff on Friday.

“It means we can’t do much training for games. We’re traveling most of the time”.

Neil Harris also had this to say:

“We played on the Sunday against Preston and Bristol on a Friday. It becomes seven games in nineteen days for us. It is what it is but its a bit unfair and it’s wrong. We have to be creative to be as fresh as we can to get results”.

Key Players

For Cardiff, new signing Harry Wilson will be the creative key to unlock Middlesbrough’s defence. Wilson got his first goal for Cardiff in Wednesday draw with Bournemouth. He also hit the bar form a free kick and on another night could have taken the match ball home.

Harry Wilson scores his first Cardiff City Goal

Akpom Chuba has two goals this season and with Middlesbrough injuries they will be looking for him to add to his tally. George Saville, who scored the winner by pressing the Bristol City defence, is another player who could cause Cardiff problems.

Prediction: Cardiff 1-0 Middlesbrough

History suggests a close game, but Cardiff should have the edge creatively. Warnock will set his side out to be hard to beat and hit the Bluebirds on the break. So the Welsh side will have to find a way to unlock a determined team and I think they will do just that.

World Cup winner Jack Charlton dies age 85

World Cup winner with England and former Republic of Ireland Manager Jack Charlton has died at the age of 85.

The former Leeds United defender had been diagnosed with lymphoma and also had dementia.

Big Jack as he was affectionately known, passed away peacefully at his Northumberland home on Friday, his family said.

Charlton, the older brother of Manchester United legend Bobby, was part of England’s World Cup winning side of 1966.

He spent his entire club career with one club- Leeds United- from 1950- 1973, making a record 762 total competitive appearances for the Whites.

With his time at Leeds United, he helped them to the Second Division Title (1963-4) and First Division Title (1968-9).

His spell at Leeds also yielded an FA Cup win (1972), League Cup (1968), Charity Shield (1969) and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup’s in 1968 and 1971.

Charlton was called up to the England team just days before his 30th birthday and went on to make 35 international appearances and scored six goals.

He appeared in two World Cups and one European Championship but will be remembered most for his no nonsense defending as a centre back.

After his playing days were over, he decided to turn his hand to management and led Middlesbrough to the second division title in 1973-4.

He spent four years in the North East before resigning in April 1977, where he took charge of Sheffield Wednesday for six seasons.

Despite a short spell back at Middlesbrough as caretaker manager and one season at Newcastle, he always had aspirations to manage at International level.

He took charge of the Republic of Ireland national side in 1986 and led them to their first ever World Cup in 1990, where they reached the quarter-finals.

In his ten-year stint in charge of Ireland he also led the Irish to qualification at Euro 1998 and the 1994 World Cup.

In January 1996, Charlton resigned from his position and went into retirement.

Big Jack was a football man, loved and adored by everybody in the football world.

To spend an entire career at one club in today’s world is unheard off. To hear so many nice words said about such a gentleman speaks for itself.

Jack Charlton’s name will live forever with not just Leeds fans, but Irish football fans who fittingly called him a legend.

It would be fitting if Leeds United can go on and seal promotion to the Premiership in memory of not just Charlton, but two other greats who passed away this year. Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry.

 

Said Benrahma: The Algerian whose taken the Championship by Storm

Said Benrahma is the name on every Championship fan’s lips this season as a series of sparkling displays have highlighted just how talented the 24 year old is.

A quick search of his name on YouTube and you’ll find some of the finest highlight reels in football, including an ingenious double nutmeg on Middlesbrough’s Lewis Wimg this term.

He is so good at sliding the ball through a player’s legs that Brentford B coach Sam Saunders recently told the Guardian:

“He could nutmeg a mermaid.”

Yet, Benrahma is so much more than just a tricky winger.

He has been the Bees creative force this season, forming an impressive attacking trio alongside Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins (who have been christened Brentford’s BMW) netting fifteen goals and providing six assists in the league.

Routinely deployed on the left wing, Benrahma loves to cut inside on his right foot and deliver a cross or have a shot on goal. He is one of the most technically gifted players in the division, with his dribbling often leaving defenders in knots.

His contribution to Brentford’s promotion push since the restart has underlined his importance to the Bees, scoring five and assisting one as Thomas Frank’s side have won all of their games since the break to sit just two points behind second place West Brom.

Three of those strikes came in the weekend’s game against Wigan, with the winger clinically dispatching the relegation threatened side with relative ease. His first was a well timed volley, the second an inch perfect cross come shot after he had tormented Byrne and the third a well placed shot into the far corner giving Marshall in goal, no chance.

Manager Thomas Frank was full of praise for the winger’s display, stating in his post match press conference:

“I think in general he has had a good season so far, but he has absolutely hit the ground running after this coronavirus break.

“He has added extra to his game, such as arriving in the box, and these last four games he has been getting better and better,  with his passing and his finishing.

“I have to praise him for his work ethic. He worked extremely hard. He has been good, he needs to keep it up.”

A Benrahma inspired Brentford then came from behind against Charlton at Griffin Park to continue their march towards promotion with a 2-1 win. Benrahma won and coolly converted a penalty to equalise before the Bees scored a second to pick up all three points.

He caused problems for Charlton all evening as he occupied a more central role, picking the ball up in between the lines and playing neat interchanges with Watkins.

His form this season will come as no great surprise to those who watched him at Griffin Park in his maiden campaign in England last season. He managed ten goals and fifteen assists last year as Brentford finished 11th but Benrahma has taken his game to new levels this year.

He represents another shrewd bit of business from the London club, as he was picked up in the summer of 2018 from Nice for a fee of £2.8 million, after catching the eye on loan in Ligue 2.

Having come through the youth ranks at Algerian side NRB Bethioua, Benrahma moved to France, linking up with Balma SC Colomiers and then moving on to Nice. He made his debut for the first team in 2013, aged just 18 but spent the majority of his time at the club in the reserve side before going out on loan. He left Nice having made 17 appearances, scoring three goals.

His first loan spell came in Ligue 1 with Angers, then he dropped down to Ligue 2 and had stints with Gazélec Ajaccio and Chateauroux. It was at the latter, which he first started to show his undoubted potential and came to Brentford’s attention. He scored nine goals in 31 appearances, aged just 22 and Brentford decided to take a risk and snap him up that summer.

He hasn’t looked back since and the Algerian is now surely worth at least ten times the fee Brentford paid for him. With a host of Premier League clubs sniffing around him, Benrahma is likely to leave if the Bees don’t make it out of the Championship this time around, having already talked of his desire to play in the top flight.

A full Algerian international, Benrahma has won three caps for his country and comparisons are often drawn between him and compatriot Riyad Mahrez. Both started their journey in Ligue 2 before lighting up the Championship and both are silky wingers who enjoy nutmegging opponents and creating chances.

If Benrahma, who was nominated for the Championship Player of the Year, manages to emulate Mahrez’s career trajectory he may well go down as one of the best bargain signings the Championship has ever seen.

For now, his focus will be on finishing the campaign strongly and propelling Brentford to the big time.

With just four games left of the regular season and potential play off dates to come if Brentford can’t pop West Brom to second place, now is the time for Benrahma to show his quality and provide for Brentford when they really need him.