Defensive transition needs work as Middlesbrough youngster impresses: THREE things we learnt from Gateshead win

Middlesbrough recorded their first win of pre-season after a 3-1 win over National League North side Gateshead – but what did we learn from the game?

Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 6:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th July 2019, 8:38 am
Patrick Reading impressed against Gateshead.
Patrick Reading impressed against Gateshead.

Boro took the lead two minutes before half-time when Jonny Howson capitalised on a defensive mix-up, before the hosts equalised from the penalty spot shortly after the break. Ashley Fletcher then put Boro back ahead midway through the second half before Marvin Johnson added a third – here’s what we learnt:

Boro need to be braver in the final third – Boro dominated possession for most of the evening but struggled to create many clear-cut chances for large spells.

Midfielder Stephen Wearne found himself in some decent positions on the right in the first half, while Paddy McNair made some promising runs forward. Yet Boro often lacked that killer pass to release frontman Ashley Fletcher.

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After coming on midway through the second half, Adam Clayton made a difference when he played a delightful ball over the top to set-up Fletcher for 2-1. Boro will need more of that this campaign.

Defensive transition needs work – Woodgate has made it clear he wants his players to keep the ball and play out from the back.

Yet Boro’s first-choice centre-back pairing, Aden Flint and Ryan Shotton, didn’t always look comfortable, with loose balls regularly going astray in the opening exchanges.

Lewis Wing played at the base of Boro’s midfield and helped link-up play from back to front. Even so, the transition from defence to attack still needs some work.

Patrick Reading is making a case – Boro’s squad appears a little short in the full-back areas, which could provide opportunities for some of their academy prospects.

One man who could step up is 20-year-old left-back Patrick Reading, who produced another solid display in Boro’s backline.

With George Friend still recovering from last season’s injury, Reading started his second game in succession and produced a couple of inviting crosses early on.

For sure, there will be tougher tests defensively but the youngster has made a promising start under Woodgate.