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Match analysis: Charlton 0 Middlesbrough 1
Final Score: Charlton Athletic 0 Middlesbrough 1
IF Tony Mowbray is in the process of trying to complete his first Middlesbrough jigsaw, there is a real sense he could be looking for the final pieces.
It might have taken him almost three years of cost-cutting and squad realignment, but there were genuine indications during the 1-0 win at The Valley that he might have got somewhere.
While it is far too soon for Middlesbrough fans to get carried away, perhaps patience should have been the operative word all along.
A manager might always be responsible for delivering with whatever squad he has, but it has taken Mowbray longer than he would have liked to have his team as it is now.
Middlesbrough have ongoing talks with clubs in the hope of landing a new defender and, possibly, two new strikers before the end of the transfer window on September 2.
And while Mowbray admits he will not be rushing in to anything he does not feel is right, but when he does the next additions could well be the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Middlesbrough looked like a team more than capable of being in the upper reaches of the Championship at Charlton. The problem which exists is that the squad does not look strong enough to stay there should injuries take their toll.
The latest arrival of Albert Adomah from Bristol City provided Middlesbrough with an attacking vibrancy down the right which has been a real source of frustration for the club dating back to their Premier League years.
The central midfield triumvirate of Dean Whitehead, Grant Leadbitter and Jozsef Varga – who was excellent at The Valley – has the potential to dominate most Championship fixtures in the middle.
While defensively, regardless of whether Frazer Richardson stays at right-back or Justin Hoyte/Stuart Parnaby slots in, Middlesbrough have one of the most capable backlines in the division if they all stay fit.
Now Mowbray must conjure up a way of getting them to score more goals – and that is exactly what Adomah will be trying to help deliver.
“Everyone played well and I was happy to be part of a team that won on my first game,” said Adomah, beaming after an impressive debut.
“It wasn't a great week building up to Charlton. I watched the results before I signed in the league and cup games against Leicester and Accrington. That was a shame, but we have 44 games left and this win can be the start of better things to come.
“We have lost just one in the league and won one in the league. It's nothing. Hopefully we can maintain the standards we set in this victory and carry over to the next one.
“There's new players around here and we have to adapt to the way Middlesbrough play. You can't just leave them isolated. We all have to get to know each other and the better we get to know each other the better we will become as a team.”
Despite having direct runners Adomah and Mustapha Carayol in the team, and having Charlton worried on a number of occasions, there was still very few clear cut chances.
Even Lukas Jutkiewicz's winner 18 minutes from time was scrappy. The lone striker was on hand in the area to nod in to an unguarded net when goalkeeper Ben Hamer missed Grant Leadbitter's corner, which was headed back across towards Jutkiewicz by Varga.
And while Middlesbrough dominated the game without scoring more goals, Charlton could have avoided a second straight defeat in the league had Jason Steele not done well to deny unmarked Danny Green at the back post eight minutes after half-time.
But Middlesbrough, fully deserving of the points, did enough to get the win Mowbray has been desperate for – if only to keep the players believing they can do well this season.
Mowbray will spend the next fortnight doing his best to bring in a different type of striker to Jutkiewicz, but Adomah is just happy to start his new career with a win.
“Before I was even playing football I was watching players like Mark Viduka and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink scoring goals for Boro. I remember those times,” said the Ghana international, who has been allowed to stay on Teesside this week rather than head for a midweek friendly in Istanbul with Turkey.
“Boro is a Premier League club without doubt. I was walking around the training ground, it is Premier League standard – that's where we have to get this club again.
“I also want to get to the Premier League. Playing at Middlesbrough hopefully it's a platform to the Premier League, I want to get promotion with Middlesbrough.”
Talk of going up is premature and would herald a totally different conundrum, but this particular jigsaw might not be as far from completion as had been feared in recent weeks.
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