The Build Up: Bournemouth vs Middlesbrough
Boro start the Easter weekend with a trip to the South Coast to face off against Play-Off chasing Bournemouth.
Boro headed into the international break after a dismal showing at Millwall, as the Lions rat out 1-0 winners over the Teessiders. The game was settled by a Grant Hall own goal on the half hour mark, with Neil Warnock openly criticising his player’s performances and commitment levels to the game. A positive for Boro fans is that their side have often demonstrated a good bounce back ability to put right the wrongs of their prior game. Warnock will be hoping for the same as the Reds are in desperate need of wins, should they mount a play-off push.
The international break will have given many players in the Boro squad - and across the Championship as a whole – a much needed rest. However, one man that hasn’t had much of a rest will be Paddy McNair. The Northern Irishman has featured in all three games and after playing on Wednesday night for his country, it remains to be seen if McNair will need a few extra days recovery.
Neil Warnock will be pleased with the chance to have his squad freshen up and regain some legs ahead of the final run-in of the season; Injuries had started to affect the squad across the last two months. Aside from McNair and long-term absentees Anfernee Dijksteel and Marcus Browne, Warnock is likely to have a fully fit squad to operate with ahead of a difficult game at the Vitality Stadium.
Ashley Fletcher boasts the best goals per game ratio of any striker in the Boro ranks, and you would imagine that the striker role will be operated by one of either Fletcher or Chuba Akpom, after Assombalonga’s noticeable absence in recent weeks.
Bolasie and Kebano have constantly provided threats to the backline and Boro fans will be desperate to see as much of them as possible between now and the expiry of their loan deals.
Ex-Boro player and manager, Jonathan Woodgate, is in the Bournemouth dugout after the Nunthorpe-born Boro fan replaced Jason Tindall as Cherries manager in February. It’s the first meeting between Woodgate and Boro since his sacking last June, and he will be desperate to get one over on his former employers and keep Bournemouth in tabs with Reading in 6th.
Woodgate has struggled to keep Bournemouth in a consistent run of form, albeit have had some difficult fixtures of late. However, their last Championship outing saw them hammer fellow promotion-chasing side Swansea City 3-0. Goals from Phillip Billing and Arnaut Danjuma, either side of a Joel Latibeaudiere own goal handed the Cherries all three points.
Danjuma has proven to be a real livewire at this level, with 10 goals and 4 assists in his 25 Championship appearances this season. The Cherries have real depth in their squad, with Danjuma, Dom Solanke, Junior Stanislas and David Brooks all proving to be quality players in the attack.
The two sides met in the second game of the season, where the spoils were shared at the Riverside in a 1-1 draw, thanks to goals from Dominic Solanke and Marcus Browne. The visitors opened the scoring shortly before half time, in front of 1,000 Boro fans, the only time fans have been allowed inside a football stadium this season, before Browne headed in the equaliser 10 minutes from time.
The two sides haven’t met on too many occasions, with under 20 meetings featuring Boro and Bournemouth. However, it is Boro who hold more wins than their counterparts.
Boro wins: 7
Bournemouth wins: 4