The good thing about the proliferation of sport on TV over a weekend means that there’s no need to stick with a game if its appalling, though I grew restless with England’s batting enough to watch half of the lunchtime kickoff in the Championship, hoping to see Adam Clayton come off the bench for Middlesbrough against Leeds – my patience was rewarded as he joined the fray with around 20 minutes to go.
So What Happened? Honestly, Middlesbrough controlled the ball well during the second half, all neat touches, first time passes and finding men in space, but looked toothless in terms of breaking down a Leeds defence that were well-marshalled, but rarely stretched. Indeed, their defence was more noticeable in the full-backs bombing forward in support of strikers in a system that seemed to combine two styles of play. Often, the ball was hoofed forwards to nobody in particular, with Billy Sharp trying to make the best of it on his debut.
Less often, it was worked forwards and taken into wide areas as Leeds flooded forwards as if on a day trip to the Middlesbrough penalty area – only to have to hop onto their bus home pretty quickly afterwards. These two styles of play typify Championship football and the overall lack of quality in a lot of teams’ can be compensated in a number of ways – watch the teams in and around the playoff to see how they do it. Previously, Leeds used to ‘give the ball to Ross McCormack’ but his sale has allowed them a hair of stability.
On Saturday, it was their turn to win a game they probably didn’t deserve to (or expected to – they were 3/1 just after half-time), but the luck will bite them the opposite way in future, as it will Middlesbrough, who will see chances turn to goals instead of misses in future. Entertaining stuff, but for its ebb and flow rather than its quality.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10.