MIDDLESBROUGH .................................................. 0 Boro self-destruct as Rams’ 17-year wait for win ends
Derby score their opening goal yesterday, starting what would be Boro’s biggest defeat of the season MIDDLESBROUGH were handed their biggest beating of the season as Derby County ran out 3-0 winners at the Riverside.
Matej Vydra took home the match ball and he won’t believe his luck. Neither will Derby.
The most galling thing is that Boro weren’t terrible in the first half. In fact, they were the better side – the team largely in control and the aggressors.
They had a handful of chances but squandered them, and went into the dressing room behind. That can happen in the Championship.
But what unfolded in the second half was a thing of nightmares. It was ghastly, an alarming show of immaturity and a lack of game management against a direct rival.
Daniel Ayala has a lot of explaining to do. His foul to give Derby an early penalty after the restart was misjudged. But what followed was unacceptable.
It’s not that Boro have never clawed back a two-goal deficit. Even after Vydra had doubled the Rams’ lead, Garry Monk’s side were still in the game with 43 minutes left.
But Boro lost their cool. First it was Fabio who was involved in an ugly spat with Tom Huddlestone, and then Ayala – lauded for his recent performances which have coincided with the team’s upturn in form – lost control.
He flattened David Nugent from behind. He didn’t even need to wait for the red card to come out.
The situation was far from ideal, but Boro could have still fought back, like they did against QPR, Brentford, Fulham, Barnsley – twice.
However, as soon as Ayala committed his ludicrous second foul, the game was gone. Then it was painful.
The result leaves further question marks over Boro’s ability to beat the better sides in this division. Beating the bottom six is expected – but it won’t be enough to achieve promotion.
Neither will afternoons like this, as Boro hit the self-destruct button.
The Rams had left empty-handed on nine of their previous 10 trips to Teesside, a run stretching back to 2000.
On their last win here, Malcolm Christie – then a Ram who later joined Boro – scored twice in a 4-1 victory, and much of the pre-match focus centred around another forward to wear both shirts – the returning David Nugent.
The 32-year-old former fans’ favourite last started at the Riverside on that unforgettable day against Brighton in May 2016 which clinched Boro’s promotion to the Premier League.
Understandably, he was given a round of applause from the Teesside faithful before kick-off.
That’s where the niceties ended though, and Boro – who had scored early in four of their previous five games – were quick out of the blocks against a Derby side unbeaten in five away from Pride Park.
Stewart Downing – again deployed on the right as Garry Monk made just two changes from the side that beat Birmingham – was at the heart of it, while Martin Braithwaite found early joy as he occupied pockets of space just behind holding midfielders Tom Huddlestone and Joe Ledley.
It was the Dane who was the first to fire a shot at goal, his 25-yard freekick causing momentary panic for Derby keeper Scott Carson who was relieved to see the ball narrowly clear the crossbar.
If anything highlighted Boro’s dominant start, it was the sight of Derby forward Matej Vydra shaking his head inside the opening 10 minutes as he looked to close down from the front – only to see his teammates not following suit.