How Middlesbrough fans made their voices heard in pre-season win at Rotherham United
The Middlesbrough fans in the Mears Stand made their voices heard. From chants of ‘Super Neil Warnock’ to ‘Dael Fry, he’s one of our own, there was a song for nearly every member of the Boro squad.
The official attendance said there were 1,180 away supporters at Rotherham’s New York Stadium, yet it felt like there were more.
It was certainly refreshing to see a buoyant away crowd as Boro rounded off their pre-season schedule with a 1-0 win courtesy of Paddy McNair’s excellent first-half free-kick.
Warnock will know his squad isn't the biggest in the Championship at this moment in time, yet it certainly has some likeable characters. As shown by the fans singing their names.
After a season of games being played behind closed doors, supporters are looking forward to the 2021/22 campaign which will start at Fulham next weekend.
Boro welcomed Duncan Watmore back to the starting XI here, after the forward was rested for the friendly at York earlier in the week.
Left-back Marc Bola, winger Sammy Ameobi and playmaker Marcus Tavernier were still absent, though, while frontman Uche Ikpeazu started on the bench as teenage striker Josh Coburn was handed a start up front.
Coburn is still only 18 but is already an imposing figure. After just 14 minutes, he won the free-kick which led to McNair’s fine opener.
The first half was a scrappy affair, though, with plenty of pauses in play, including when Isaiah Jones was forced off after a blow to the nose and replaced by Jack Robinson midway through the first half.
Boro keeper Joe Lumley didn’t have much to do in the opening 45 minutes but made a fine save to keep out Dan Barlaser’s free-kick in the second.
The Teessiders did still struggle to create many clear-cut chances, though, which is something that will need to be addressed in competitive fixtures.
As he did against York, Warnock stuck with his tried and trusted back three of McNair, Dael Fry and Grant Hall.
Jones started as the left wing-back, with Boro’s lack of options on that flank still apparent.
Both sides were keen to play the ball forward quickly, whether that be passes into the channels or direct balls forward to their frontmen, yet both sides had defenders back in numbers while playing similar systems.
Like against York, there were moments when Boro dropped too deep and invited pressure, as the gap between their strikers and midfield was too large.
When Ikpeazu came on at half-time, he was able to hold the ball up more effectively, yet Boro still appeared to be searching for the right attacking combination.
McNair’s role on the right of a back three has brought the best out of the Northern Ireland international.
With licence to step out from the back and deliver crosses into the box, the 26-year-old produced another standout performance here, where his free-kick decided the match.
Sam Morsy also looks like he’ll be a key player this season and was industrious in midfield.
Boro now have just over a week to prepare for their Championship opener at Fulham on Sunday, August 8.
Warnock will hope he can add more signings to the squad before the trip to Craven Cottage.