Considering how close the club came to promotion last season, losing out in the play-offs, expectations were once again high at the Riverside, in the hope that this season, automatic promotion to the Premier League will be won.
During the summer transfer window, Boro were quite busy and not afraid to spend money on players. Perhaps the key acquisition, was seen to be Stewart Downing, who returned to club from West Ham United, for a fee of around £5.5 million. Other signings included Christian Stuani from Espanyol, David Nugent from Leicester City and Carlos de Pena, from Nacional. Each of these transfers carried a fee of between £3 million to £4 million.
The season started in-differently, with Boro managing just 1 win from their first 4 matches. That being said, there was just 1 defeat in there and the team soon started to build momentum, winning 5 games in a row. This really gave some belief, that after 9 games and just 1 defeat, Boro were capable of reaching the Premier League this season. However, October saw 3 matches without a win, before Boro kicked back in to gear and won 11 of the next 13 games. This pattern was something which was to be repeated throughout the course of the season.
During the January transfer window, Boro were busy again and after calls for a regular goal scorer to come in and seal their place in the Premier League, Steve Gibson splashed the cash on Jordan Rhodes. The Scottish striker started slowly but has scored some important goals during the latter stages of the season.
The end of January and the beginning of February was a real low point of the season. Boro picked up just 2 points from a possible 15 but despite this poor run of results, the club remained in the automatic promotion places. Following the wins over Cardiff and Fulham, came another sticky spell of 3 defeats in 4 games, yet Boro still remained in the top two of the Championship. There was also something else which happened, prior to the 4th game in that sequence, which came at Charlton and really shook the club, at a crucial time.
There was an argument at a team meeting and the press reported how Karanka, admitted the signing of Downing was against his wishes and he was struggling to work with the player. Downing’s form had dropped off but to leave the team, without their manager at Charlton, seemed a very drastic measure. Come the next game, at home to fellow promotion chasers Hull City, Karanka was back in the dugout, amid claims he never wanted to leave the club. The match finished in a 1-0 victory and this result seemed to kick start a push towards the end of the season.
Boro remain unbeaten, going in to the final game of the season, winning 6 games in a row after the defeat at Charlton, before drawing the 3 games prior to the meeting with Brighton. Again, it seems like a case of ‘what might have been’ but Boro’s season has seen a pattern of results, whereby the club have gone on great unbeaten runs, only to drop points in quick succession. Let’s hope this run of dropped points has come to an end and it will be back to winning ways against Brighton on Saturday.