3 points just feels all the more sweet when you claim them away from home.
— TheGoodTheBadTheBoro (@GoodBadBoro) September 9, 2017
And it’s about time, with Garry Monk’s men ending a bitter 13-month wait for an away scalp against Bolton at the Macron Stadium on Saturday.
The boys in red looked in every area a promotion-chasing outfit as a brace from Big Britt and a debut strike from new acquisition Marvin Johnson sent Boro’s travelling supporters home smiling.
In the games preceding yesterday’s convincing win at Bolton, Monk’s new-look Boro flirted with several unfamiliar midfield setups as the new manager put his ideas into practice. This reaped mixed results, and Boro were somewhat short of dominant in their opening few fixtures.
However, yesterday’s team sheet saw a reshaped midfield and a return to the 4-2-3-1 setup, a formation often favoured by Aitor Karanka at this level during his tenure at the club, particularly in the 15/16 promotion season.
On Saturday, Boro looked composed and comfortable as they dictated play in the central areas for much of the 90 minutes, largely down to industrious displays from Clayton and Grant Leadbitter, who returned to the fold for his first league start of the campaign.
The latter of the two looked unphased by a transfer window where background chit-chat continuously raised speculation over his future.
Leadbitter showed the maturity anyone would expect from a club captain, whilst maintaining the athleticism and stamina to maintain a high intensity for the full 90. Paired with Clayton’s ability to play the toughman role, picking up scraps and feeding the ball into forward players, the chemistry between these two shone through all game.
Above all it was familiar viewing for Boro’s 4000-strong travelling army, for this once staple-choice partnership kept the cogs turning for Boro in the centre of the park yet again.
If Saturday’s performance can be replicated by AC and Grant in upcoming fixtures, Adam Forshaw and £5m man Jonny Howson may have their work cut out in establishing themselves in the starting XI.
What did you make of the 4-2-3-1 system used by Garry Monk?