Joe Nicholson's verdict: Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate showed he's learned from Bristol City and Luton after Reading win

In the end Middlesbrough had to grind it out against Reading, soaking up pressure in the closing stages to secure a valuable 1-0 win at the Riverside.

Sunday, 15th September 2019, 12:01 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th September 2019, 12:05 pm
Jonathan Woodgate recorded his second win as Middlesbrough head coach following a 1-0 victory over Reading.

It was a stark contrast to the pulsating 2-2 draw at Bristol City before the international break, or the 3-3 blockbuster against Luton on the opening day of the season. Crucially, though, Boro claimed all three points courtesy of a second-half Marvin Johnson free-kick.

Yes Reading could easily have nicked a point late on if it wasn’t for a couple of excellent saves from Darren Randolph, and it is a little ironic that we are now talking about Boro’s defensive solidity after all the hype about trying to play more offensive football.

Even so, there are times when clean sheets are even more important than goals. Aitor Karanka’s reign taught us that.

Woodgate wants to change Boro’s style of play but it shouldn’t be forgotten what the side’s strengths were under Tony Pulis. No team in the Championship conceded less goals than the Teessiders last season.

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Many Boro fans seem to appreciate that it will take time for Woodgate to implement his ideas, yet this season can’t simply be viewed as a free pass. Results, like the one against Reading, are still essential.

Woodgate made a bold call switching to a back three to see the game out midway through the second half and ultimately, like against Wigan earlier in the season, it paid off.

This side still have deficiencies which were highlighted against Reading, at times they looked unbalanced in central midfield, where Adam Clayton had to cover plenty of ground and Royals playmaker John Swift exploited the space.

On the right flank, Reading wing-back Andy Yiadom, operating in a 3-5-2 formation, regularly bombed forward and delivered crosses into the box, as Boro defender Marc Bola was exposed.

On the plus side, centre-backs Ryan Shotton and Dael Fry repeatedly repelled the danger and looked like a fine partnership.

Paddy McNair also continued his fine form with some probing runs from midfield, even if Boro’s forward line looked a little clunky.

Woodgate may want to play a more attacking brand of football but he also needs results to go with it.