Bolton Wanderers. . .1
AFTER a promising start to the season, when they briefly headed the First Division, Middlesbrough are sliding down the table at a rate which is alarming their dwindling band of supporters, but not apparently their manager, Lennie Lawrence, who resolutely refuses to be 'panicked' into buying reinforcements. All the evidence suggests they are desperately needed.
Yesterday's home defeat by Bolton Wanderers means Middlesbrough have now gone eight games without a win. That is bad enough, but even more worrying for the club's directors is the mass defection of supporters who have clearly lost confidence in Middlesbrough's apparent lack of ambition.
Only 6,828 turned out for yesterday's fixture, the lowest League gate at Ayresome Park for seven seasons. Admittedly it was a cold, wintry afternoon and the match was being shown live on television, but Middlesbrough's attendances have been well down on last season's and they have been haemorrhaging even faster in recent weeks.
The side Middlesbrough fielded contained several youngsters and no recognised strikers. Without the injured John Hendrie and Paul Wilkinson, their attack carried little threat to Bolton, who had to be no more than competent to claim all three points.
Many feel that the nine years Lawrence spent at cost-conscious Charlton have made him reluctant to spend money. However he stated in yesterday's programme that he 'totally refused' to be rushed or panicked into buying players whom he did not consider to be suitable either in the long term or short term. He may have to think again if he is to halt the rot.
Bolton won yesterday with the best move of the match 10 minutes before half-time. Tony Kelly found Jason McAteer with a superb pass on the right. McAteer quickly took the ball to the byline before crossing perfectly to the near post for John McGinlay to head past Stephen Pears for his 14th goal of the season. It was a rare moment of excitement in a match that served mainly to emphasise that Bolton are on the way up and Middlesbrough are on the way down.
Middlesbrough raised their game in the second half, but they were continually thwarted by Bolton's five-man defence in which Alan Stubbs tidily swept up the few errors that were made.
Near the end police led away a Middlesbrough supporter who ran across the pitch while play was going on to remonstrate with Lawrence. The Middlesbrough manager was apparently unmoved.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Pears; Fleming, Mohan, Whyte, Liburd; Stamp (Forrester, 65), Peake, Mustoe, Moore; Hignett, Kavanagh (Morris, 73). Substitute not used: Collett (gk).
Bolton Wanderers (5-3-2): Hoult; Brown, Seagraves, Stubbs, Winstanley, Phillips; McAteer, Kelly, Thompson; Coyle, McGinlay (Lee, 70). Substitutes not used: Burke, Clarke (gk).
Referee: R Shepherd (Leeds).