Middlesbrough have faced a very challenging season in the Championship, with Jonathan Woodgate having been tasked with helping the club adopt a different approach on and off the field, whilst still picking up enough results.
Boro have spent most of the campaign fighting it out down the bottom end of the Championship table, with Woodgate’s side having spent time in and around the bottom three throughout the first half of the season, before putting together a promising run of form over the festive period to lift themselves clear of danger.
However, Middlesbrough suffered another dip in form, failing to win in ten Championship matches before they beat Charlton Athletic in their last game before the season was suspended – and that leaves them two points clear of the relegation zone, meaning they could still face a fight to survive when and if the campaign resumes.
Here then, we take a look at TWO players who have impressed despite the challenging circumstances and TWO who haven’t…
At the start of the season there would have been few Middlesbrough supporters expecting Ashley Fletcher to be one of their main sources of goals and attacking inspiration this term, after the forward had never managed to score more than seven goals in a single league campaign.
However, Fletcher has been one of the players who has really stepped up for Boro this season under Woodgate, with the 24-year-old having managed to register eight goals and five assists in 34 Championship appearances.
Fletcher has also managed to provide some important link up play with the rest of Boro’s forwards, having averaged 1 key pass per game and a 66.5% passing accuracy per game, according to Whoscored – and Middlesbrough will be pleased to have seen him return to the bench against Charlton last time out.
QUIZ: The Middlesbrough higher or lower quiz – Can you get 15/15?
Another player who has managed to excel for Middlesbrough this season, despite their struggles at times has been Lewis Wing, who has been provided with the chance to really establish himself as a vital player for Boro under Woodgate, after making an impact under Tony Pulis last term.
Wing has been one of Middlesbrough’s most consistent performers throughout the season, managing to register seven goals from midfield in 34 appearances, and he showed his consistency by managing to register a number of important goals during Boro’s recent ten-match winless run.
The 24-year-old could be the key to helping ensure that Middlesbrough are able to ensure they survive in the Championship this term – and Woodgate’s side would be needing to do all they can to keep hold of him in the summer
Where Fletcher and Wing have managed to establish themselves as two of Middlesbrough’s most influential performers this season, Britt Assombalonga has suffered a dip in form, which has been down to a mixture of finding chances hard to come by and a couple of injury issues.
Assombalonga was expected to be Boro’s main source of goals once again this season, having managed to register 15 and 14 league goals in the previous two campaigns, but he has managed to score just six times in the Championship in 26 appearances so far this term.
Woodgate would have been hoping for more from his main striker, but the Middlesbrough manager has stuck by him and remained confident he will find some consistent form once again – and Assombalonga will be under pressure to improve his form when the season does resume.
Another senior player at Middlesbrough who has been below par has been George Friend, with the defender having struggled to perform on the field when he has featured, although he has missed most of the campaign through injury.
Friend has managed to make just five Championship appearances for Boro, but in those games he hasn’t shone, with his performance in Middlesbrough’s 2-0 defeat at Leeds United recently highlighting the defender’s loss of form over the last year or so.
It is perhaps harsh to criticise a player who has been out of action for prolonged periods through injury, but he has looked like the shadow of the defender he has been throughout his successful spell at the Riverside, which suggests his time as a crucial member of their defence could be coming to an end.