The result at the weekend felt like two points dropped rather than a point gained. A poor performance in the first-half was furthered by a similarly frustrating second period, with fans left pondering what could have been.
That feeling was reciprocated amongst the players with Ryan Shotton coming out after the match saying: “We know we have to be better”.
Attention now must turn to Ipswich Town who themselves will be feeling disgruntled as they let a two-goal lead slip away at Birmingham City.
Ipswich remain the only side in the division yet to win a game and they’ll be aiming to halt that unwanted record against Middlesbrough, a side who’ve only won once at Portman road in the last 12 meetings.
Boro still look to be lacking creativity in midfield, evidenced by the one-clear cut chance they had in the entirety of Saturday’s match. In order to fix that problem, the call from the terraces has been for the return of Lewis Wing; Boro have won every match this season in which the 23-year-old has started. With Boro only finding the net three times in the last five matches, it might be time for Pulis to switch up his attacking options in midfield.
Although, Boro’s promotion push this season was never going to be based upon their attacking ability. Of course, they’d need to be able to outscore the opposition, but Boro were never going to expose themselves defensively and go out and score five goals in every match. Pulis has made a career of making his teams defensively sound and using those solid foundations to then progress his team up the pitch.
What may be of concern to fans though, is that one defensive mistake – as we saw on Saturday – undermines all the hard work that the team have done to get themselves into that position in the first place. As long as Boro are holding onto a one-goal lead, a defensive error, or a mistake from an official, could leave Boro with further frustrations if they let yet another lead slip. Let’s just hope that the Hull game on Saturday was an anomaly.
The last time Boro visited Portman Road was on the final day of last season. An entertaining 2-2 draw was the outcome, as Patrick Bamford equalised for the away side in the 96th minute of the game.
Martin Waghorn scored two for Ipswich that day and was a thorn in the Boro backline all afternoon. Ayala for one will be pleased to hear that he won’t have to face the former Sunderland academy graduate, as Waghorn opted to join Frank Lampard’s Derby County in the summer, snubbing Boro in the process.
There’ll also be a different face in the Ipswich dugout as new boss Paul Hurst makes the step up from League One to the Championship after narrowly missing out on promotion with Shrewsbury last year. Hurst has found it difficult to adjust to life in the division, however, with Ipswich currently lying 22nd in the league.
Yet despite their league position, Ipswich are unbeaten at home this season, the only problem is that they’re only picking up single points instead of three. Ipswich have drawn every match at Portman Road so far, at the hands of Villa, Blackburn, Brentford, Bolton and arch-rivals Norwich.
Pulis opted for a back five in the last match, utilising George Friend in the middle instead of natural centre-back Dael Fry. It’ll be interesting to see if the Boro manager employs a similar formation against Ipswich or alternates back to a four-man defence.
Ipswich have only kept one clean sheet at home so far this season, although admittedly that was in their last match. Of those five goals they’ve conceded, four of them have been scored in the first half. The first 45 minutes will be crucial in determining the winner of this game.
Boro have looked sluggish since the international break, especially in the first half of games, and that will be something that Pulis will be looking to work on. Boro find themselves in a bit of a rut for the first time this season, after only winning once in the last five matches. But, tomorrow they have a chance to end that rut against a team that haven’t won in their opening ten matches.
Boro: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Flint, Friend, Clayton, Howson, Besic, Downing, Braithwaite, Assombalonga.
Ipswich: Gerken, Knudsen, Chambers, Nsiala, Spence, Skuse, Chalobah, Edwards, Nolan, Ward, Jackson.
Picture Credit: Middlesbrough FC