Middlesbrough 0 Brentford 1: Positive signs but key area must improve - Three talking points

Ashley Fletcher challenges for the ball against Brentford.Ashley Fletcher challenges for the ball against Brentford.
Ashley Fletcher challenges for the ball against Brentford.
Middlesbrough weren’t able to make their first-half dominance count as they suffered a 1-0 defeat against Brentford at the Riverside. Ollie Watkins scored the only goal of the game in the 54th minute. Here are some of the talking points from the match.

Boro can compete with possession-based teams – In this fixture last season Boro sat back and tried to defend their early 1-0 lead – a tactic which ultimately resulted in a 2-1 Brentford win and lots of criticism towards Tony Pulis.

The Bees have earned a reputation as a team which likes to play neat, slick football – Thomas Frank’s side saw 76 per cent of the ball against Birmingham last weekend.

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Yet it was Boro who shaded possession in the opening 45 minutes (52 per cent) as Woodgate’s side pressed high and didn’t allow the visitors to settle.

Ashley Fletcher and Marvin Johnson were particularly lively, shutting off space on the flanks, while Paddy McNair was also full of energy in midfield.

Chances need to be taken – Boro didn’t allow Brentford to get a foothold in the first 45 minutes but couldn’t make their dominance count.

The hosts registered eight shots and four on target in the first half but failed to find a way past goalkeeper David Raya.

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Raya made a decent save to deny Johnson before the break while McNair skewed a few off target and Britt Assombalonga hit the post.

Minutes after the interval, Boro were made to pay for those missed chances as Watkins opened the scoring for the Bees.

Players have to earn their place – Following the arrival of right-back Anfernee Dijksteel from Charlton, some may have expected Boro’s new signing to go straight into the starting line-up.

Even so, following his assured performances during pre-season and display at Luton last week, Jonny Howson kept his place in defence.

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Howson put in another solid display against the Bees, plugging the gaps when his side were caught on the counter attack.

The 31-year-old was moved into midfield late on when Dijksteel was introduced for his Boro debut.