Entertaining Boro needing to tighten up at the back
Middlesbrough's fans are certainly getting their money's worth this season, as the club followed up their 4-3 defeat at the hands of Swansea with a 3-2 win against Millwall.
But manager Tony Mowbray's delight at the thrilling nature of Boro's recent results will be slightly marred by concerns over his side's fragility at the back. From 3-1 up against Swansea, Boro were pegged back and overtaken following some slack defending which their manager was quick to criticise.
"There was some very poor defending out there – you should never lose grip of a two-goal lead like that but it was all self-inflicted. We have shot ourselves in the foot," he said.
However, this time out, it was Leroy Lita who undid Bouazza's equaliser for the Lions with virtually no time left on the clock, but although it was a thrilling way to claim maximum points, there is little doubt the manager would be far happier with a long run of quiet and uninteresting 1-0 victories in a bid to push themselves up the table, after all the Middlesbrough betting still suggests relegation is a possibility.
But at least his strikers are finally clicking. Whereas under Gordon Strachan it seemed that despite having some of the most talented and prolific attacking players in the league at the Scot's disposal, he simply could not get them to perform, but Boro's vast improvement under Mowbray has been mirrored by the improvements in fortunes of Lita, Boyd and McDonald – and as with all strikers, confidence breeds confidence.
As a result, Boro will have bags of confidence going into one of the hardest runs of their season – they take on QPR and Nottingham Forest at home, before a tricky trip to the Madejski Stadium to take on Reading – and in such tests, season are defined. There is no doubt that Boro have the personnel to do some serious damage to these opponents, but has their self-belief, which undoubtedly deserted them under Strachan, been rebuilt enough by Mowbray to withstand such a challenge? The football betting tips made Boro favourites to go up at the start of the season, but despite having a strong squad they still can't be totally sure of staying up.
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A strong defence will be key, clean sheets will be priceless, and late goals will be welcomed with some serious ferocity - just so long as they're at the right end, of course.