WHEN it comes to a post-Christmas and New Year hangover nobody suffers more than the Boro.
The grey skies loom heavy over the Riverside as the good work and league position assembled from August to December is undone in a month of no-shows throughout January.
Or that is how it looks.
Other than sending part-timers Hastings packing in an FA cup battle on home turf and the recent win over League 2 Aldershot, the recent run of results is enough to send many-a-Teessider into panic mode.
Played three league games, lost three league games in 2013. A run which includes damaging defeats to Italy’s adopted English side Watford and in-form Leicester, both fellow play-off hopefuls.
But we shouldn’t be surprised - Boro’s January slump is very much an annual trend, especially since Gareth Southgate’s lightweight squad lost their Premier League status.
Last year was no different. A battering at Blackpool on New Year’s Day was followed quickly by a no-show at home to Burnley before Alex Nimely, anonymous in a loan spell at the Riverside earlier in the season, tore us apart at struggling Coventry.
But despite the seemingly annual form dip at the start of every calendar year, the season isn’t decided in January.
While the early good season work was undone in January last year, the real dent to a play-off spot, which should have been comfortably secure with games to spare, came during an eight-game winless spell in March and April.
The season before that, while admittedly being a country mile off the play-off spot after Gordon Strachan’s Scot revolution went terribly wrong and Mogga came to the rescue, Boro only won one out of four in January, but drew the other three.
But any momentum was again halted suddenly as we went on to lose three out of the next five games.
Early 2010 was no different.
A 4-1 win at lowly Doncaster was the only win in January as Boro, one of the Championship’s early pacesetters in our first season back in the second tier, fell apart.
But once again, the real damage was yet to be done as Strachan’s unbalanced and shot-shy side won just two out of 10 from the back end of February to April.
A dodgy month at any stage of the season is damaging, but the beauty of the Championship is the fact games come round thick and fast.
While 2013 hasn’t started as any Boro fan would like, results continue to go our way elsewhere.
Leicester have picked up points on a little run of their own but Hull, Crystal Palace and play-off pretenders Millwall, Leeds and Nottingham Forest have all faltered.
We have had our bad run in January, again, but others have somehow allowed us to limit the damage.
While January hasn’t been great in the past, spells later in seasons have left us kicking ourselves at what might have been.
If history repeats itself and we have another bad run that will be the case once again.
But a run of games in February gives us the perfect chance to kick on.
If we can do that, January will be long forgotten and we just need to ensure that for this season we have just the one bad month.
- Dominic Shaw