Boro desperate for a change of luck
This season Middlesbrough have been a real conundrum for any follower of Championship football.
They started as nailed-on favourites to get promoted with their strong squad including genuine class in attack, and a manager who had done it all in the game and pundits like Andy Gray tipped them for the top.
But something went wrong along the way, and somehow they find themselves occupying the third relegation spot, with just seventeen points from their eighteen games.
Quite how this has happened is hard to imagine, but as is often the problem with a squad which is strong on paper but just cannot seem to but a win, confidence has to be playing a big part. Their last two games have been disappointing 1-0 losses against Swansea, a team which should have been their fellow promotion candidates, and then Millwall a team just up from League One. With goals seeming hard to come by for their strikers, Middlesbrough's biggest problem seems to be overcoming their own demons.
Against Swansea, a side with their sights set the Premier League, Scott Sinclair proved too hot to handle as he continued his incredible goalscoring run to take his tally to twelve in sixteen games. Many teams, including some of those already in England's top flight, wouldn't be able to cope with the youngster in such form so it's no disgrace.
The positive news is that they are still creating chances. Against Millwall, the result could easily have been reversed had Leroy Lita put away his two good headed opportunities. Manager Tony Mowbray must keep drumming that message into his players as a run of three or four good results could kick-start their season, albeit belatedly. The football odds suggest they could still be in the mix for a playoff place if they start winning now.
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Mowbray is as good a candidate for the job as Boro's fans could hope for and they have the players at their disposal to manage such a run. The first step must be keeping clean sheets, thereby taking some of the pressure off their strikers. Then with some patience and self-belief, we might finally see the real Middlesbrough.