Joe Nicholson's verdict: Promising signs against St-Etienne but Boro's finishing must improve ahead of Luton test
Many supporters received their first glimpse of Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough side during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with St-Etienne on Sunday – and many were happy with what they saw.
Boro were the better side for large spells against a team which finished fourth in the French top-flight last season, playing with a high tempo and offensive style at the Riverside.
There were more signs that Woodgate wants his side to press high up the field and win the ball back quickly when they lose possession.
Boro caused St-Etienne constant problems down the left flank in the first half, with full-back Hayden Coulson and new signing Marcus Browne linking-up well in the channel.
Both were prepared to take players on, a trait which the side lacked last season, as space opened up in the final third.
Another new arrival, Marc Bola, came on at half-time and looked a solid option at left-back. It was a decent run out considering the defender’s transfer from Blackpool was only completed a couple of hours before kick-off.
Yet there are still some areas Boro will need to brush up on ahead of Friday’s Championship opener at Luton – not least their finishing and decision making in front of goal.
It was an area which ultimately cost the Teessiders a place in the play-offs under Tony Pulis, as only four Championship teams scored less goals than Boro last term.
That was partly down to the restrained tactics of the old regime, but also some gilt-edged chances which weren’t converted.
Against St-Etienne, Boro failed to make their dominance count in the first half, spurning chances from the edge of the area where moves often broke down.
At the other end, the hosts showed improvements at the back compared to the last few weeks and the penalty conceded by Ryan Shotton looked harsh.
Boro responded almost immediately, though, after an fine free-kick from substitute Lewis Wing, who also went close with a fizzing, low effort late on.
Wing possess the sort of attacking quality Boro will need to challenge for promotion this season, with the team starting to take shape.