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Can Patrick Bamford fire Middlesbrough to promotion?

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Can Patrick Bamford fire Middlesbrough to promotion?

Patrick Bamford’s rich vein of form has followed a switch to a more central attacking role.

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck?”, Dalai Lama XIV

As Patrick Bamford clinically finished his and Middlesbrough’s third goal on a frosty Friday night to confirm a comfortable 3-0 win over Leeds United, I wonder if the Dalai Lama’s words were echoing around Tony Pulis’ head?

Time and again the direct running of Adama Traore drew white shirts to him like moths to a light.

This created space for the clever off the ball runs of Bamford to exploit before he pulled the trigger to execute Leeds once, twice and thrice. The result was the most convincing performance of Pulis’s reign and perhaps the season to date.

To those Sky Sports viewers not privy to Pulis’s early weeks in charge Boro’s attacking tandem of Bamford and Traore may seem like intelligent design.

The truth, however, is more one of happy circumstance. Pulis was quick to recognise the talents of Traore and bring them to the fore. He should be commended for that.

The central striker role though has proven to be somewhat trickier for Tony.

Pulis made his mind up fairly quickly that top scorer Britt Assombalonga was not his cup of tea. This meant that Rudy Gestede, a stereotypical Pulis towering striker, was chosen to lead the line.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

This always felt like a compromise until Pulis could bring his own pick in and so it proved with only a WhatsApp intervention preventing him from landing Aleksander Mitrovic, who has been on fire since his loan move to play-off rivals Fulham.

The end of the transfer window and the associated speculation meant that Rudy couldn’t fail and he promptly bagged a brace at home to Hull.  And promptly fractured his ankle.


Pulis needed a Plan B. A Plan Bamford.

All the while Bamford, who I believe is the most technically gifted footballer at Boro, had been shunted out on the left wing, a position that showcases his weaknesses and fails to exploit his strengths.

He had looked a shadow of the player that grabbed goals and the Championship Player of the Season award during his first spell at Boro.

But his brace in the disappointing 3-3 draw at Sunderland, including a sublime finish that evoked memories of the Bamford at old, resulted in him being given the nod to lead the line against Leeds.

He did not disappoint, blasting his first Boro hat-trick, before grabbing another in the club’s 3-1 victory over Barnsley on Saturday.

The restoration of Bamford to his favoured central striking position also elicited a tweak in the Pulis playing style.

Gone were the long balls that had previously been blasted up to Gestede. Instead, Boro tried to play the ball a bit higher up the pitch and that coupled with the Traore-Bamford tandem tore Leeds apart resulting in a win and a style of footballer that is easier on the eye.

In football, luck can be more important than judgment.

If Traore and Bamford stay fit and on form, Tony Pulis and Boro may look back and thank the day that Slavisa Jokanovic casually dropped Mitrovic a WhatsApp message.

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  1. Jeffrey Wood

    March 11, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Bamford was ready and up for it at the start of the season and looked terrific when paired with Ossombalonga but that fool Monk left him out.
    Pulis did not choose Bamford as a starter but has improved his game and did use him from the bench.
    The flip flop injury to Gestede forced Pulises hand and Bamford was given a chance to show how good he is. Now he has made himself the number one centre forward scoring in every game he has played.
    Top player top man soon top goalscorer

    • Paul Ahdal

      March 11, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      Bamford is a different beast when played centrally. He made us tick under Monk when played just behind Britt as you say, typical of Monk’s reign that he then left him out, just as he would drop Traore just when he showed flashes of finding form.

      I was at the Reading game when he was played out on the left & he was a peripheral figure. A lot of fans got on his back but despite that he still got himself into a position to score and flashed a shot across the face of goal. Great to see his obvious goal scoring talent now being utilised.

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