Boro Players Go 'Back To School' After Narrow Cup Win!

Last updated : 04 January 2009 By Boro Mad
But with all these "lessons", isn't about time at least some of his players started improving?

The Boro boss is starting to get as repetative as a scratched record, and the confidence in the side continues to be low ... almost as low as the hopes of the fans on in the stands.

We gave it a go at Old Trafford last week, but the difference was the setting. No-one expected us to win so the pressure was off.

But Southgate doesn't seem to be able to lift his side at the Riverside, even more so in fixtures we are expected to win.

Striker Afonso Alves ending his lengthy goal drought to score both goals, and if anyone is going to get a 'plus' out of the match ... it must be the Brazilian.

Alves, signed from Heerenveen last January, had gone nine games without finding the net for Boro but scored in both halves at The Riverside to give Boro enough of a cushion to progress to the next round.

But it still became a difficult afternoon as Jeremie Aliadiere was stretchered off with what seemed a serious injury and, after Barrow had struck the post, Jason Walker claimed a deserved consolation for the team situated a full 95 places below them in the league ladder.

These are the sort of games Stewart Downing should PROVE he is a genuine international player, rather than fading to grey like he has so often in recent fixtures.

We all know about the approach from Tottenham Hotspur, and in the early stages the England international fired narrowly wide after a dangerous run.

But it was Barrow who should have taken the lead on 14 minutes when Jason Walker wasted a golden opportunity by shooting off target following a neat cut-back from Matt Henney.

However, Downing was the creator of the opening goal as he took advantage of a sloppy offside trap to find the Brazilian and Alves showed the predatory skills that have not been in evidence enough this season when sliding the ball home for a 1-0 lead.

While Downing, twice, and Alves threatened further, Barrow could have finished the half on level terms when Paul Joyce saw a low effort deflected onto the upright.

Robert Huth had a goal disallowed, but Alves went the closest as he hit the post from close range following a cross from McMahon.

On 62 minutes the Brazilian headed in his second from another Downing pass to give Boro a two-goal cushion.

Emnes, David Wheater and Adam Johnson could all have extended Boro's lead, but Boro were almost made to pay when Walker finished past Brad Jones following McNulty's touch.

Barrow could even have equalised when Mark Boyd went close to scoring a second in the final ten minutes, but Boro held on.

Southgate lives to fight again, and the priority is ... we are in the fourth round with something to hang our dreams on.

Can we win the cup? Pompey broke the Top Four dominance last year, as the big boys concentrate on the Champions League.

We've as much chance as anyone, but let's hope Southgate can hold onto Downing ... and add to his squad.

Players from the English league are cup-tied now, but Steven Fletcher could walk straight into the cup fight.

Who knows?

BORO: Jones, McMahon, Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz, Johnson, Walker, Digard, Downing, Alves, Aliadiere (Emnes 34), Emnes (Mido 84).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Taylor, Riggott, Sanli, Bates.

BARROW: Martin, Pearson (Bond 52), Jones, McNulty, Logan, Henney, Joyce, Boyd, Paul Brown, Walker, David Brown (Curtis 65).
Subs Not Used: Deasy, Rogan, Tait, Sheridan, Bayliss.

Att: 25,132