Ashley Fletcher impresses as Middlesbrough's frailties are exposed: Three talking points from Crewe display
It was hard to draw many positives following Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup exit – but what did we learn from Middlesbrough’s shoddy performance against Crewe at the Riverside?
We take a closer look at some of the talking points.
Boro’s need to find solutions to the high press – There were several occasions in the first half when Boro’s centre-backs, George Friend and Nathan Wood, received the ball but had no options in front of them.
Crewe’s front three were full of energy in the first half and pressed Boro high up the pitch as the hosts tried to play out from the back, a trait Woodgate has encouraged.
Yet the Teessiders must find a way to improve the transition from defence to attack, something they also struggled with in the first half at Luton.
Woodgate has previously said it’s important to get the balance right but won’t want Boro to revert to playing the ball long.
The squad is thinner than we thought – Woodgate had admitted he wanted to bring in at least one more player before the end of the transfer window and the squad is still a little light.
Even so, despite making ten changes, the Boro starting XI which started against Crewe still looked strong enough to beat the League Two side.
All three of the club’s new signings, Anfernee Dijksteel, Marc Bola and Marcus Browne, impressed in League One last season, while Rudy Gestede, George Saville and Marcus Tavernier have all competed at Championship level.
Of course, you can’t judge players on just one performance but many failed to take their chances here.
Ashley Fleteher is becoming a key player – The forward was left out of the side for large spells last season but has made an impressive start to this campaign.
The 23-year-old came off the bench on the hour mark and was lively throughout before pulling a goal back for the hosts.
Paddy McNair also made an impact after coming on at half-time while George Friend returned to the side after recovering from injury.
Even so, it was a night of few positives for Woodgate.