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Ton-up Mowbray reveals blueprint for the future
TONY MOWBRAY joined the 100 Club at the weekend – and while he sealed it in the best possible way with an away win, he admitted that his team are a long way from his idea of football utopia.
When Mowbray was appointed manager in November 2010 he spoke of his football ideals, but putting those into practice has proved to be frustratingly difficult.
Players from two managers ago on Premier League wages, with the Premier League money drying up and the financial stimulation once afforded to his predecessors a distant memory – Mowbray’s dream of a football paradise has not turned out the way it promised in the brochure.
Wins like Saturday’s at Brighton, 99 games on from his first game – a defeat to Bristol City at the Riverside – will help towards that. If Boro can gain promotion, by hook or by crook, fans will start coming back to the Riverside, the money from the Premier League will start rolling in again, and Mowbray can start assembling a squad he feels is fit to bear his name.
Until now, Mowbray will make do and mend with the resources at his disposal.
“I don’t want to make any excuses. I genuinely think that it’s a work in progress,”
said Mowbray, who saw Marvin Emnes score the only goal of the game at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
“With the contractual situation of players, the financial situation of those contracts which is binding, you can’t scrap something and start again.
“The summer was one of great change and it’s a work in progress.
“How far down the line can we say ‘these are the players I want in my team’, playing the way we want to play? I’m not sure of the answer.
“We’re doing OK, considering where we started. Another manager might have come in and liked all of the players and the way it was set up, and not changed anything, but unfortunately for the chairman he’s given the job to a manager who wanted to play a different way to the last manager, so there has been a lot of change.
“I’m sure Steve (Gibson) will be supportive of what we’re trying to do here.
“However long that takes, I hope he’ll be patient.”
A superb defensive display from the visitors kept Albion at bay after Emnes’ first-half goal, while Jason Steele made a string of saves in the second half to keep his side in it and hand Boro their fourth away win in a row.
Boro took an unlikely lead on 21 minutes after a period of concerted Albion pressure – and it had more than a hint of good fortune. Emnes attempted a speculative shot 25 yards out which cannoned off the chest of Albion captain Gordon Greer and wrongfooted goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
The goal came in between a host of Albion chances in which leading scorer Craig Mackail-Smith was guilty of squandering.
After five minutes, the Scotland international, back in the line-up after injury, was crowded out by Jonathan Woodgate from Bruno Saltor’s cross; and a minute later he lobbed over Steele’s crossbar.
Albion’s on-loan left-back Wayne Bridge swung in a raking cross for the striker, whose side-footed effort looked goalbound but for a fine save by Steele.
After the restart, Brighton spent a long spell camped in Boro’s half, but a combination of fine goalkeeping and resolute defending somehow managed to preserve their advantage.
First, Steele saved well from David Lopez’ effort, before Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper was the centre of attention when the Albion players believed he handled outside the area – luckily for Boro, referee Andy D’Urso disagreed.
Then, on 63 minutes, came Albion’s best chance of the half when Ashley Barnes’ goalbound header was somehow clawed out by Steele – his save showing similarities to Gordon Bank’s against Pele in the World Cup of 1970. Meanwhile, Mackail-Smith continued his profligate run by scooping the rebound over the bar.
Barnes attempted a longrange shot which Steele improvised and padded away, after Andrew Crofts had fired wide when Mackail- Smith’s looping header had to be punched out by the Boro goalkeeper.
Boro’s fans were made to wait 30 minutes before their team registered an effort in the second half, and it came courtesy of Grant Leadbitter – his low shot having to be tipped around the post by Kuszczak.
Ishmael Miller, on as a substitute, spurned a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 when he latched on to a long ball, raced clear and poked his shot past the post.
However, despite Brighton gaining five minutes of stoppage time, they were unable to make it count and Boro’s impressive run on the road continued – Saturday’s was Boro’s fourth win in a row away from the Riverside.