There has been eager anticipation from Boro and Wolves fans for the season to start. Both teams appointed new managers, and both were some of Championship’s biggest summer spenders. 13 players were handed league debuts (7 for Wolves, 6 for Boro). In a way the awkward duel that followed was to be expected, as both sides tried to adapt to new systems.
Boro never really looked comfortable in their formation, and Wolves set themselves up to cope effectively. The front 3 of Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite and Ashley Fletcher didn’t work well. Braithwaite playing slightly behind but was never given an inch, and doesn’t look like a suitable fit for the no.10 role. Fletcher had a disappointing game, and was replaced on the hour by Patrick Bamford. The 2014/15 Championship Player of the Year immediately slotted in well, and was arguably Boro’s man of the match.
The midfield trio had a difficult afternoon too. Howson made some important challenges but was tentative going forward. Marten De Roon, in potentially his last outing in an a Boro shirt, had a feeble showing with several misplaced passes. Adam Clayton was a workforce all afternoon, regularly placing himself as a third centre-back to allow Christie and Friend to get forward and provide width. A lack of width was an issue all game for Boro. George Friend, such a key performer in Boro’s promotion of two years ago, looks short on confidence. Christie had several bright moments, linking up well with Bamford particularly.
Throughout the opening 45 minutes, while Boro clearly were trying to find their rhythm, it was vital they held their composure. Unfortunately the opposite happened as a moment of madness took hold of Ayala who attempted a pass, which was never on, to Gibson, which went straight into the path of Brazilian Leo Bonatini who slid the ball under Randolph gifting Wolves the only goal of the game. Ayala, like Friend, had a difficult season last year, blighted by injury, and looks somewhat diminished from the player of two years ago.
Boro did respond well to the Wolves goal. Christie had a great run down the right and crossed to find Braithwaite unmarked from 6 yards out. Braithwaite fluffed his header wide. In the second half Wolves were happy to contain Boro, but on 72 minutes Bamford fed a nice ball behind the defence to Assombalonga who timed his run perfectly to find himself one-on-one with the keeper. It was the type of situation in which Assomablonga scored for fun while at Forrest, but he found his shot well saved by Ruddy.
Wolves held on for the win. It was disappointing result and performance by Boro. The feeling of disappointment is compounded, a little unfairly, by the fact that Boro fans went in with such optimism. After relegation spirits were lifted quickly by chairman Steve Gibson who stated it was intention to “smash the league” this year. He backed it up by bringing in a highly rated young manager, and spending unprecedented amounts to bring in top talent.
But the fact remains that Boro lost to a goal they never should have conceded, and missed two chances they shouldn’t have missed. This was a game they should have won. But it was a wake-up call, that maybe “smashing the league” will be more difficult than some thought.
What did you make of the game as a whole Wolves and Boro fans? Let us know in the comments below!