Set-piece work pays off as Martin Braithwaite returns: THREE things we learnt from Hartlepool win
Middlesbrough produced a much more convincing performance as they swept past Hartlepool 4-0 at the Super 6 Stadium – but what did we learn from the game?
Goals from Marcus Tavernier, Rudy Gestede, Aden Flint and George Saville secured a second win of pre-season for Jonathan Woodgate’s side – here are some of the main talking points:
Set-piece work pays off – Former boss Tony Pulis regularly bemoaned his side’s wasteful set-pieces last season, as Boro’s lack of goals cost them a place in the play-offs.
Here, though, Woodgate’s side scored twice after well-worked dead-ball situations, the first coming after just five minutes when Paddy McNair teed up Tavernier from a free-kick and the winger lashed the ball home.
Boro then made another set-play count four minutes before half-time, when a short corner was crossed in by McNair and Flint converted from close range.
Flint scored just one league goal last season and, at 6’6 tall, should be another source of goals for Woodgate’s side this season.
Martin Braithwaite can revive his Boro career – There still remains some uncertainty as to whether the Danish international will remain at the Riverside beyond the summer.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
Here, though, we got a brief reminder of what the forward can bring to the side, following his 45-minute cameo at the Super 6 Stadium.
Braithwaite operated on the left of a front three against Pools but regularly drifted inside, showing his quality on the ball when he receieved it.
His superb cross-field pass to pick out Jonny Howson started the move for Boro’s second goal before the Dane was subbed at the break.
Boro look to mix it up – Woodgate has made it clear he wants his side to ‘pass and keep the ball’, and there have been clear signs of Boro trying to play out from the back this summer.
Against Pools, though, Boro were prepared to mix it up, with centre-backs Flint and Ryan Shotton occasionally clipping the ball long or up to Gestede.
Boro’s centre-back pairing once again looked unconvincing when they did try to pass the ball short, which nearly resulted in some dangerous Hartlepool attacks.