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JEFF IN THE SUNDAY SUN
FIRST BORO AWAY WIN FOR OVER A YEAR ON THE WAY

4th September 2017

The first International break of the season immediately follows the closing of the transfer window and at least Gary Monk now knows for definite who he has to work with until the pantomime of speculation restarts as we head towards January.

It is laughable that five games have passed with all teams on tender-hooks that star players could still leave and possible replacements may or may not be around come the first week in September. Points lost in the first few games could be vital come May.

Boro's results at Wolves and Forest may well have been different had he got his team settled before the start of the season and it is the same for everyone though and Newcastle lost their first two games last season and still went up as champions so perhaps it's not the end of the world.

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Talk of the window being closed in England before the season starts would be futile if players can still move abroad. Boro managed to do most of their business pre-season, De Roon started at Wolves and Baker has been brought in since but there has been speculation about Ben Gibson's future and a bid from Leeds United for Rudi Gestede whilst Boro prolonged pursuit of Birmingham City defender Ryan Shotton ran and ran.

Finally it was concluded and Boro have cover across the backline and a new weapon in attack as he has a very long throw in technique.

Another whose future was in doubt up to the last day was Adama Traore, an enigma if ever there was one. A player with unbelievable pace and dribbling skills but usually a frustrating end to his runs, albeit he did create a goal in his last appearance for Boro in the cup tie against Burton.

He had expressed a desire to leave and as we know from past experiences with Ramirez a unhappy player can be a problem in the camp.

Now it's the fine tuning of the squad and the early signs have been satisfaction at what Gary Monk to clearly trying to achieve. Whilst Boro fans remaining loyal throughout the disaster that was last season, the nation must have been delighted to see Boro scheduled for live transmission with Karanka's over cautious approach to games.

Shot shy Boro were not exactly the great entertainers, to put it mildly. This season the change has been more like a hurricane than a breath of fresh air. One up front has been replaced by three and Monk is the first to admit that we are still a work in progress but the early signs are very encouraging.

The midfield has still lacked a little width, pace and creativity as was very much in evidence last Saturday against Preston North End. The surprise signing of Oxford United's Marvin Johnson may be the answer, however he is unproven at this level and the fact that Stewart Downing is still at the club may prove to be as good a new signing.

The three players up front system with their mobility and interchanging has created countless problems for the opposition and the fact that even in defeat Boro had 17 shots at Forest emphasises the improvement.

Away from home last season there were many games when we failed to register a single attempt on goal. Whilst no one would be over critical at the adventurous approach style of play, perhaps a slightly more cautious approach should be employed at times especially away from home.

In the defeats at Wolves and Forest, Boro were slow off the mark and in the early stages lost the midfield battle for possession. Whilst the front three were always prepared to track back it wasn't quite the same as having the ability to match the opposition in midfield, getting a foothold on the game and importantly not conceding the vital first goal of the game.

Assombolonga, on another day could have had four goals at Forest, indeed despite his brace he could have had another couple at home to Burton. You felt though that if the chances keep coming he will take a good percentage of them.

It's Bolton away after the break and with the fine tuning expected then hopefully Boro will enjoy their first victory on the road in almost 13 months since the win at The Stadium Of Light in August last year.

It starts yet another Championship week of three games in eight days after which all Boro supporters will be expecting their side to be firmly ensconced towards the top of the table.




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