It wasn’t what Jonathan Woodgate had in mind: calling for his No.9 Britt Assombalonga and Paddy McNair at half-time against League Two visitors Crewe.
But the manager had little choice.
At 8:30pm he was staring down the barrel of a Carabao Cup first round exit after Crewe had taken full advantage of a dreadful 45 minutes from Boro.
Visiting boss David Artell revealed in the build-up to this game that he wasn’t going to make wholesale changes at the Riverside at risk of a hammering. Watching on from the technical area in the first half, he must have wondered what he’d been fearing.
With 15 minutes to play, they were coasting comfortably into the second round after out-playing below-par Boro.
But then came the unlikeliest of late comebacks, inspired by Ashley Fletcher. The forward swept home to give Boro hope before Marc Bola, who had endured a difficult debut up to that point, hammered home in stoppage time to force penalties.
The fightback ultimately counted for nothing, Britt Assombalonga and Marcus Browne missing from the spot as the visitors prevailed 4-2 in the shoot-out. It was Alex who deserved to progress.
Boro only turned up after 75 minutes and the fact the game was extended to a shoot-out flattered the hosts.
A much-changed Boro side started slowly, lacked urgency and ideas, gave Crewe hope, panicked when they conceded the first goal, quickly conceded a second soon after.
Even the half-time introduction of two of Woodgate’s big-hitters failed to spark the hosts into life until the final 20 minutes.
For 70 minutes, Crewe coasted. Boro finally came to life in the final quarter of the game and forced the shoot-out but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Boro were right to feel hard done by after the Brentford defeat and played well at Luton but this display, for the most part, will have alarmed head coach.
The good news for the manager is it was his second string. The bad news for the players who started is that they won’t be playing again at Blackburn at the weekend.
Woodgate challenged the players coming into the side – of which there was 10 – to put pressure on those who started the two league games. They did nothing of the sort.
Yes, the team was young – with an average age of just 23. And yes, it included five players making their first starts for the club. But this Boro XI should still have had …read more
Source:: Daily Times