As opening games go, we haven’t had as many as exciting as that.
Most of the time, the opening game is a bit of a damp squib. But Friday night under the lights, old school ground, bubbling anticipation of a newly promoted side and a team in its infancy in terms of a new style of play and new leadership, it did not disappoint.
It was sloppy at times, at others it was fun to watch. All in all compared to last season, I was on the edge of my seat rather bored to tears in it.
Jonathan Woodgate went with a bold team selection for his first competitive game in charge.
Marvin Johnson returned to the fold and although he was at fault for the Martin Cranie goal, produced an eye-catching display on the right wing.
Ashley Fletcher seemed to play an inside forward role, cutting in from the left when possible and made a nuisance of himself. Very good header for the goal after a great ball in from Johnson.
Lewis Wing and Paddy McNair provided the drive from midfield and looked to implement the high press. McNair won the ball high up on a number of occasions.
Young Hayden Coulson gave a decent performance at left back also. Britt also looked threatening in flashes bagging a fortunate first of the season.
But that goal from Wingy…. More of that, please.
It is early days for the high press, but it has already started to reap rewards. McNair was snapping at anyone who had the ball and Wing pressed also.
Whilst from a mistake, Britt’s goal came from pouncing on an error high up and we capitalised on it.
We are still a little rough as evidenced by the amount of free kicks that we gave away in various areas of the midfield.With a little more technique and little less bull-headed tenacity, we will turn over possession a lot more in games to come.
Luton managed to get beyond the press and better sides may punish us, but I would hope we will refine our process as the games go on.
As mentioned before, Marvin Johnson produced a fine display on the right flank.His direct running committed opposition players and held the ball well when support hadn’t yet arrived.
His delivery on the whole was impressive including the ball for Fletcher’s header. He almost netted a screamer as well had it not been for the opposition keeper. Everything you would want from a winger.
He didn’t cover himself in glory with his defending for Cranie’s goal and questions could be asked as to why he was defending so close to the 6 yard box in the first place, either way, he was caught under the ball and Cranie made the most of his chance.
Hopefully an isolated incident and he can produce more of the same further up the pitch.
Lewis Wing. What a strike. In fairness, it’s something we all knew he was capable of. And now Woodgate is encouraging him to shoot more often, it is more than likely something we will get used to.
An exocet missile just inside the right-hand post and an early contender for goal of the season along with Luton’s 1st from Sonny Bradley.
Our goal though was from a nice controlled bit of possession, knocking the ball about confidently and working the position in the final third. Lovely stuff.
If I am to nit-pick, he could have stood his ground a bit more for Luton’s third. He commits to a block too early and made the decision easy for James Collins to slot in the corner. It was a bit frantic though and credit to him for tracking back in the latter stages.
Again, his performances up the pitch will be more important.Embed from Getty Images
Britt was willing and put himself about a bit. A lung-bursting run first half from one box to the other shows his buy in to the new approach, but dear me, that penalty.
It’s not the first time he’s kicked a conversion. Not getting it on target is inexcusable. But Woodgate insists he will be on the next penalty and is 100% convinced he will score.
Nice man-management touch from Woody who clearly realises that Britt responds to an arm round him.
If the wing play and high press continues to produce openings, Britt can’t fail to get himself a hatful this season.
Marcus Browne had a nice little cameo second half showing some trickery with a cheeky nutmeg and direct running. Again, hopefully a sign of things to come.
A notable mention for Jonny Howson in his new right back role. Lots of energy and very useful in linking the attack at times.
One player that does worry me still is Ryan Shotton. I’m hoping he is playing just because Dael Fry is yet to come back from an injury, because he is not good enough to be starting centre back.
With Burnley in pursuit of Fry with figures of around £8 million being thrown around, I hope we can resist and keep him.
Whenever Shotton is in possession, I get very nervous and his distribution was poor as it has been for most of his Boro tenure.
If we are going to play from the back, he is not the man to do it. Time to move him on perhaps if we get another CB in (or two if Fry does leave).Embed from Getty Images
A further sign of putting faith in young players. Last minute replacement for Fry hopefully won’t be needed.
Still no real sign of a No. 10 as Woodgate promised, but with Browne, Tav to come in when needed and maybe another addition, we have options to freshen the attack.
Overall, with our style of play set to evolve as the season progresses, this game could potentially be a microcosm for our season as a whole.
We will cause teams headaches and put a few past them. Other games we may be on the receiving end of a lesson by better sides. This game provided glimpses of both.
Our style will be moulded and changed on the fly as the season progresses so we need to be patient. It was only one game, but what a game it was.
Brentford up Saturday. After the window closes with hopefully a couple more new additions, it’s chance for our new-look Boro side to impress on home soil. 2-0 for me.