Key points from Middlesbrough’s play-off defeat by Coventry City
Gustavo Hamer’s second-half goal settled matters and sent Coventry into the Wembley final against Luton Town.
It was the case for Boro, however, that could have happened as Michael Carrick’s side went out on their biggest night of the season.
What were the main talking points on a bad night at Riverside?
Boro’s attack fails
Prior to that night, Middlesbrough had scored in every home game under Michael Carrick. What a night to choose to change that.
In fact, Boro never looked set to score and with Carrick acting so freely for most of the spring he will surely have to reflect on the last three games of the season and wonder if his changes and subsequent bad ones will hold up Result streak affected the attacking dynamics of his team.
They looked surprisingly toothless tonight, with a feeble header from Darragh Lenihan in first-half stoppage time being their only attempt at goal before finally launching a late shot that proved too little and too late.
Cameron Archer was unable to break free from Coventry’s three-man central defender – when a chance finally arose in the 83rd minute, he missed his kick entirely on the edge of the six-yard box – while Chuba Akpom never looked to replicate that Kind of a form that saw him finish the season as the championship’s top scorer.
Aaron Ramsey’s pace and penetrating power were sorely missed on a night where Boro looked toothless.
GYOKERES IS THE WINNER
There can hardly be a more demanding role in the Championship than being a defender tasked with controlling Coventry striker Viktor Gyokeres.
The Swede is something of a footballing throwback, an old-fashioned number nine (admittedly playing with the number 17 on his back) who likes nothing better than a grapple with an opposing defender and a charge into the 18-yard box.
Paddy McNair and Darragh Lenihan did an excellent job of tying up Gyokeres in Sunday’s first leg, but last night’s argument was palpable. This time the decisive battle of the match ended with the victory of the Coventry player.
Gyokeres’ physicality and agility caused problems throughout the evening and while Boros defenders limited the damage for an hour or so, the Swede played a crucial role in Sky Blues’ 57th-minute opener.
In fact, Gyokeres had threatened early on and could well have scored himself if Zack Steffen hadn’t rushed off his line after Tommy Smith’s faulty back pass threatened to set him free in the eighth minute. McNair then had to score for the team just before half-time as he received a yellow card for knocking down Gyokeres after being turned over at the halfway line.
What Gyokeres really wanted was a chance to break free into the 18-yard box and that came just before the half-hour when Ryan Giles conceded the ball in his own half. Gyokeres failed to finish the ball himself after passing Steffen, but Gustavo Hamer was there to take the ball and magic a brilliant finish into the top corner.
COVENTRY’S FORMATION CHANGE WORKS
Mark Robins’ tactical switch in the first leg was quite subtle but left Middlesbrough with neither time nor space in midfield.
While the Sky Blues started out in a 3-5-2 formation at the CBS Arena on Sunday, last night Coventry switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation with the promotion of Jamie Allen to the starting XI in place of Matt Godden System.
While Viktor Gyokeres was forced to play up front as a lone striker, the change meant Coventry had an extra player in midfield and as a result Alex Mowatt and Hayden Hackney struggled to find any passing rhythm at all.
Maybe things would have been different if Jonny Howson had been on the Boro squad as he would almost certainly have kept things going. As it was, the Teessiders had to play longer than they probably would have liked to try and work around Coventry’s crowded midfield.
Boro is unable to change things
The strength of the squad should be one of Boro’s greatest strengths this season and Carrick has regularly praised the importance of each and every member of his squad. However, when push came to shove, the Teessiders simply didn’t have the opportunity to change anything on the bench.
Yes, Carrick made a treble nine minutes after his side went behind to Gustavo Hamer’s opener, but the 66th-minute substitution of Isaiah Jones, Dan Barlaser and Anfernee Dijksteel was really just one example. reshuffle the same team.
Jones replaced Marcus Forss in an equal move, Barlaser replaced Mowatt in the heart of midfield but didn’t really offer anything different, while Dijksteel came on for Tommy Smith at right-back and did broadly the same things as the player he replaced .
Boro was in dire need of another chance to score but with Rodrigo Muniz out of favor and Josh Coburn unavailable from his loan spell at Bristol Rovers, Matt Crooks was the only forward on the bench.
Crooks has scored some important goals this season but he’s hardly an attacker in the penalty area, underscored by the fact it took Carrick until the 88th minute to bring him on. When summer rebuild begins this summer, another proven centre-forward must surely be a priority.
https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/sport/23530090.key-points-middlesbroughs-play-off-defeat-coventry-city/?ref=rss Key points from Middlesbrough’s play-off defeat by Coventry City