The surprising Middlesbrough statistic and key elements Jonathan Woodgate will need to address
Jonathan Woodgate has criticised his players at times this season, called for a reaction when performances have been well below par.
Initially, the head coach’s passionate rallying cries have resulted in some sort of response – even if results haven’t improved.
Boro’s performances against Preston and West Brom, which followed the 4-1 hammering against Sheffield Wednesday and poor showing at Birmingham respectively, were much better.
But, while Woodgate’s side at least gave themselves a chance against the high-flying Baggies on Saturday, all will count for nothing if results don’t follow.
By the time Boro kick-off against Huddersfield on Wednesday night, they could already be in the relegation zone – depending on Stoke’s result at Sheffield Wednesday 24 hours earlier.
Defeat at the John Smith’s Stadium would definitely see Boro drop into the Championship relegation zone for the first time since December 2010.
The trip to West Yorkshire won’t be an easy one either. It’s a cliche to say there are no easy games in the Championship, yet Boro’s form means that has been the case.
There is also the argument that England’s second tier is getting stronger. Huddersfield, for example, are languishing in the bottom three but have improved under new boss Danny Cowley and were a Premier League side last season.
Woodgate is well aware of the need for points and has started deploying a three-man defence with wing-backs to try and shore things up.
That may mean there are fewer players to attack, but at least Boro have been competitive, which wasn’t the case against Wednesday or, despite the late winner, Birmingham.
Boro also have problems going forward, though, and it was the Teessiders’ lack of cutting edge in the final third which cost them a play-off place last season.
This campaign, despite the 3-3 draw at Luton, the Teessiders have scored just 11 goals in 12 league games – only Wigan and Barnsley have scored less in the second tier.
Boro’s change of shape against West Brom at least demonstrated signs of progress at one end of the pitch, yet other elements, including consistency, must also improve fast.