Bolton v Middlesbrough: Reunion time at the Macron

Ben Gibson: Confident things will click.
Ben Gibson: Confident things will click.
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IT will not have escaped the notice of the more observant Middlesbrough supporters that their heroes have won just once away from home since their last visit to Bolton almost 17 months ago.

In a total of 24 matches since, Boro’s sole league win on the road arrived at neighbours Sunderland last August, while their victory at the Macron Stadium in April, 2016 represented their last Championship away triumph.

It is a decidedly under-whelming record, although the sight of the Macron should at least provide Boro with a touch of hope.

The Wanderers’ home was the scene of a monumental moment in Boro’s promotion run-in in 2015-16 with a brace of late goals from Jordan Rhodes grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat in a dramatic 2-1 televised triumph.

While a win this afternoon would hardly be as epic, it would provide a psychological fillip in a game where reunions and links are not hard to find.

Former Boro player David Wheater – who could feature after injury – and another old boy in Andrew Taylor, who is eyeing a 400th career appearance, lock horns with their former club, while Bolton chief Phil Parkinson was brought up in Stockton and was a regular visitor to Boro’s former Ayresome Park home.

On the opposing side, Ashley Fletcher returns to the town where he was raised, with the Boro forward being a star striker in Bolton schools football and on the academy books of Wanderers before Manchester United came calling when he was 13.

In a summer when Boro were linked with a stream of players and realigned their squad considerably, the onset of autumn and the closure of the transfer window is likely to be greeted with a touch of relief in many respects by manager Garry Monk.

It will provide some welcome normality and structure as he works with what he has got, something Monk’s captain, Ben Gibson, can appreciate, too.

Gibson, a target of rival clubs, commented: “The window has shut; that is probably the best thing that can happen. There has been a lot of uncertainty around a lot of the players, that is not good for the players or the manager.

“There has been a big turnaround in personnel here like we have said and the manager is working hard to ensure we develop his style.

“We expected more points so far (and) we are working behind the scenes to make sure it does click and it will click.

“There are a lot of new players, that does not click overnight.

“There is no-one here who is a miracle worker, that is natural.”