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JEFF IN THE SUN ONLINE
DIFFERENT DIFFICULT DECISION ON THE WAY FOR PULIS

28th October 2018

At the start of the season many Boro supporters would not have been confident of the start that we have made.

The loss of Traore, Gibson and Bamford aggravated by the lack of too many new signings had left many despondent as to the Boro's chances. The wily Tony Pulis though has moulded a squad that whilst probably still short in some areas has started strongly; indeed their position could be even better.

Points were dropped away from home to Norwich City and Hull City, games that we could have and should have won. On two consecutive Saturdays we had the opportunity to go clear at the top of the table by winning games but missed out. The most recent setback before yesterday's clash with improving Derby was at home to Rotherham, where another two points were lost as Boro recorded their third successive Riverside blank. This is the Championship though and you learn to expect the unexpected.

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Last season Wolves were a class apart, this season there doesn't appear yet to be an outstanding side and well over half of the teams will still fancy themselves for a play-off slot at worst. Boro's strength has most definitely been their defence, they are well drilled and whilst watching a side who are usually set up not to concede isn't always the most entertaining, especially for opposing fans, even some Boro supporters are getting frustrated, culminating in some post match booing on Tuesday.

We forget that Boro have shown the ability to play fast attacking football in some games, especially against Sheffield United and the early stages against Ipswich Town at Portman Road.

We obviously miss the explosive power and speed of Traore, but Downing and Howson have been so consistent in midfield and Saville, if he is allowed to play in a similar role, as he enjoyed at Millwall, looks likely to add a few goals to the team's tally.

Pulis has tried different formations and different personnel and at times, like many supporters, I'm not certain that we know what is our best starting eleven.

The team against Ipswich looked to cope very well without Clayton but against better opposition he was badly missed. Competition is fierce and with suspensions and injuries almost guaranteed the squad will be tested to the full.

With the additions towards the end of the transfer window we have seen the demotion from the match day numbers of younger players Wing, Tavernier and Chapman and club stalwart Grant Leadbitter and Ashley Fletcher have also found themselves side-lined.

For different reasons all these players need to be playing, the youngsters to get regular match day action and experience and at Grant's stage of his career he definitely needs to be playing and I personally feel very sorry for Fletcher who has shown significant signs that if involved regularly can be a valuable asset, especially off the bench as an impact substitute where his pace, skill and ability to lead the line could change matches.

At least with Boro's run in the Carabao Cup some of these players have enjoyed some football action but the abolishment of the loan system and the absence of any non-age related competitive football matches makes it so difficult. The season though is unrelenting and come January the gaffer will have a very difficult decision to make regarding getting these guys game time against leaving him short in numbers.




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