Joe Nicholson's verdict: Positives to take despite Brentford defeat but Middlesbrough must brush-up in key areas

Five months on from their first ever win at the Riverside Stadium, Brentford recorded a second consecutive victory on Teesside this weekend.

Sunday, 11th August 2019, 16:54 pm
Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga couldn't add to his goal tally against Brentford.

On the whole, the contrast between the two games was stark. When Boro lost to the Bees back in March, they saw just 37 per cent of the ball and attempted to hit their opponents on the break.

Ultimately, the Teessiders suffered a 2-1 defeat that day as the Riverside crowd turned on manager Tony Pulis.

Since then, Boro have adopted a different approach under new head coach Jonathan Woodgate, yet there were signs of a familiar problem during Brentford’s 1-0 win on Saturday afternoon.

Boro dominated the first half, pressing their opponents high up the pitch and even shading possession (53 per cent) against a side renowned for their slick, passing game.

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Out wide, Ashley Fletcher and Marvin Johnson kept the hosts pinned back inside their own half, while Paddy McNair was influential in midfield, linking-up play and helping drive the team forward in the opposition’s half.

Yet Boro failed to capitalise when they were in the ascendancy, and the dynamics of the match changed significantly after the break.

The fact of the matter is, as well as Boro played in the opening 45 minutes, results will be decided by what takes place in the final thirds of the pitch.

Last season Boro lacked that cutting edge in the opposition’s penalty area, a frailty which ultimately cost them a place in the play-offs.

Yes, Boro could argue they should have been 2-0 up after Ashley Fletcher saw two goals wrongly disallowed in the first half, while Woodgate’s side also scored three goals at Luton last week.

Even so, despite his best efforts, Boro’s star striker Britt Assombalonga spent most of the afternoon on the fringes and, when the side did carve out opportunities, they lacked that finishing touch.

At the other end of the field, the Teessiders looked more secure compared to the action-packed draw at Luton, yet a couple of costly individual decisions led to Brentford’s winner.

On the face of it, Boro’s players have adapted well to Woodgate’s new way of playing, yet the smaller details can often make the biggest difference.