Gyokeres and selection aside, pedestrian Boro are shot of confidence

Boro's Anfernee Dijksteel is chased by Coventry City striker Viktor Gyokeres.
Boro's Anfernee Dijksteel is chased by Coventry City striker Viktor Gyokeres.

SATURDAY was another troubling sign that all is not well within the Middlesbrough camp right now and their season is rapidly running away from them. For manager Chris Wilder, it was rinse and repeat on the road as their 1-0 defeat to Coventry City was decided on ‘small details’.

However, the biggest ‘detail’ for their fledging season to date was perhaps staring at them right in the face at the CBS Arena. Or rather sliding the ball beyond Zack Steffen for the only goal of the game to give the Sky Blues their first win of the league season.

Vitkor Gyokeres produced a man of the match display in the West Midlands wreaking havoc amongst the Boro defence but despite the Swedish striker’s heroics throughout the afternoon, the away side did themselves no favours and the chance he gobbled up was meat and drink for him and Boro lapse defending for the goal was there for all to see.

From a position of little danger near the corner flag, Frankaty Dabo won possession back from a throw-in and delivered a ball in behind the defence which Boro were far from alert to Gyokeres seized upon the ball, held off Anfernee Dijksteel and did the rest. The Boro boss’ feelings on the goal were made well clear after the game as he said: “We had three throws on the left-hand side in quick succession and have every one away. Then the third one they counter, one ball - and we talked about one ball before the game because of the threat of Godden and most importantly Gyokeres running down the sides.

“One of my centre-halves (Anfernee Dijksteel), who is the quickest centre half in the club, has tried to play offside. I’m left scratching my head. The level of attention and detail that goes into video analysis - we watched a lot of Coventry ahead of the game - and the main threat is Gyokeres who I thought was outstanding and the best player on the pitch.

“It was a good battle between him and Dael (Fry). But what you can’t do, which we did, is step up on the halfway line to him because he’ll punish you and he did punish us.”

One of the reasons that Gyokeres scoring the only goal of the game may have brought up painful memories is that it was revealed he was the subject of interest from Boro over the summer. With the club’s fortunes on the pitch far from ideals, the club’s misgivings in the recruitment department have already been highlighted over the course of the season and their failure in striking a deal for the Swede has come back to bite them.

“We made an enquiry. That was between club to club” said Wilder. “In the summer, we sold a couple of players (Tavernier and Spence) and we had that opportunity. We were ambitious in terms of going and getting a centre forward.

“Coventry knew about it from Chief Executive to Chief Executive and club to club so there was nothing behind closed doors. There was an interest.”

Viktor Gyokeres celebrates his goal against Middlesbrough. CREDIT: PA

Then again, it wasn’t just a one man show in the West Midlands. Boro could have offered up a lot more than they did. There were improvements as the game wore on but almost in a similar vein to Cardiff City, it was pedestrian, laboured and predictable. A team who are completely shot of confidence.

It took almost 30 minutes for Boro to register a first shot on target but Rodrigo Muniz compounded the first half disappointment when Alex Mowatt’s shot on the edge of the box deflected right into his path but his first time volley was straight at keeper Wilson. He knew he had missed a guilt edged chance.

As part of an unexpected selection call, Isaiah Jones and Ryan Giles started the game on the bench but their impact was there to see when they were thrown on in the second half. Jones started a well worked move from the right and the ball made it’s way to Giles on the left. His low delivery evaded the touch of Crooks at the back post who was sliding in to make contact. Perhaps it showed that it was a selection call that may have backfired.

But Coventry were never out of the game and the misery should have been compounded when they came within inches of doubling their lead when Steffen rushed out of his box to clear downfield but Kasey Palmer picked up possession and his attempted lob over the American bounced wide of the post. The Boro keeper had to be alert to deny Gyokeres and Matt Godden with further efforts.

Boro through one last hail mary at the Sky Blues to salvage a point from a free-kick but in the end, it was another toothless showing. For now, attentions turn to Wednesday when they can expect a tense atmosphere when they welcome Birmingham City to the Riverside Stadium.