Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Turning Back the Tide

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Turning Back the Tide

Article excerpt

THE MOGGANAUT is steaming steadily towards safety now and everyone is buzzing.

A spirited side looks organised and balanced, crisp on the break and resolute at the back and is now racking up precious points at a fair rate of knots.

We are not mathematically safe yet but the stats have swung decisively our way and as the stragglers flap in our wakes we are now probably just one win away to seal it with six games to go.

What was all the panic? Well, it was a close run thing there. Let's not kid ourselves, Tony Mowbray has pulled off a minor miracle in steering the listing, leaking rust-bucket SS Strachan away from the rocks and from the catastrophic capsizing of the club that would have followed relegation.

Boro were going down under Strachan. Make no mistake. They had taken a paltry 11 points in 13 miserable games.

The team looked dysfunctional and demoralised and had an alarming tendency to implode under pressure while the boss - who had squandered by far and away the biggest budget in the Championship - had gone down with all guns blazing as he lost the battle for hearts and minds on Teesside.

Even in the immediate aftermath of popular choice Mowbray's arrival there was no immediate respite.

He was still working with a squad that lacked pace, width, creativity or a cutting edge.

The early dug-out dividend of two wins in the first three soon fizzled out into a run of just one victory in five and as momentum spluttered out, come Christmas Boro were still deep in danger and vulnerable.

The team hit rock bottom at Preston on December 28.

When a corner swung in and glanced off Leroy Lita's head then squirted to the back post for unmarked Billy Jones to nod in after 28 minutes, Boro were dumped on the bottom. You could actually hear the scraping of metal and rivets straining and creaking.

Boro had kicked off a whisker outside the relegation places but in a ominous start to a watershed afternoon the goals started to fly in elsewhere.

Neil Danns scored after two minutes for Crystal Palace against Bristol City and they clawed above Boro then Martyn Woolford netted for Scunthorpe at Burnley and they leapfrogged us too.

Rock-bottom Preston then taking the lead at Deepdale was a disaster. We were bottom and deep in trouble.

You have to suspect that under Strachan the team would have collapsed and been thumped en route to a defeat that would have pushed them on the slippery slope to League One.

But Mogga's side is made of sterner stuff.

Preston's painful goal sparked a tide turning response that was pivotal to salvaging the season.

Boro hit back within two minutes as Leroy Lita played a one-two with Marvin Emnes to level and quickly kill Preston's fledgling revival and crack their fragile confidence. …

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