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Punters' Panel.

Byline: By Adam Steel Evening Gazette

Bari Chohan from Acklam is in no doubt that Boro will challenge all the way until May.

"I'm 100pc sure we can keep going in the same vein, I don't see any reason why not," he said.

"We are there on merit. If you look at the results, the only teams that have beaten us are the ones above us - Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton. And we should have had a draw in each of those games.

"That would have been two points apiece less for all of them and three more for us - the equivalent of winning another game.

"Nobody can argue with the position we are in, we are looking really strong.

"There is a soundness in defence and we are playing flowing football. I take my hat off to McClaren for his tactics at the moment.

"Zenden is a superb goalscoring threat in the centre and Parlour is a workhorse.

"Riggott is keeping Ehiogu out of the side on merit, while McMahon has been outstanding, it would be a travesty if he was dropped when Reiziger is fit again."

JOHN BROOKES, a West Stand season ticket holder from Stockton, believes the top four is a realistic aim - fitness and luck permitting.

"My heart says 'yes', but my head says 'no'," said John.

"Having said that, if we keep playing the way we are and stay clear of injuries, you never know.

"Liverpool gave us a lot of respect on Saturday, and if a team like that is giving us respect, it shows we are there or thereabouts.

"One of my main reservations is the size of the squad.

"The Manchester Uniteds and Chelseas have strength in depth and do we have that?

"But the young lads are playing brilliantly and, although Hasselbaink and Viduka have dried up a bit, we are still winning games.

"Of the other teams who will be pushing for that place, you would fancy Man United to overcome their sticky start and be in contention.

"Liverpool will be a force as well once Gerrard is back, but I think you can discount the likes of Bolton and Aston Villa.

"It's been a fantastic start for Boro. We're all at the top of a loop on a rollercoaster at the moment - let's keep our hands in the air!

CHRIS BLOWES, from Fleet in Hampshire, thinks Boro are in for an historic campaign.

"I honestly think it's going to be our best ever season," he said.

"The top six is well within our sight. Whether we can stay in contention for the top four, I'm not sure.

"It depends on what happens in January, which isn't that far away now.

"If we are still in the top five or six by then, there is nothing to stop McClaren going out and strengthening the squad even further.

"I still think we need a creative midfielder.

Since Mendieta has gone, all the pressure is on Downing. Everybody is raving about him - the only thing I'm worried about is someone like Arsenal putting in a bid of between pounds 10m and pounds 15m for him. That would really test Steve Gibson's resolve.

"I'd also like to see the strikers scoring goals again, but they are getting shared around at the moment, and I can't remember the last time I could say that!
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Title Annotation:Sport Boro
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2004
Words:559
Previous Article:Blasting out of the past.
Next Article:Bears ready to roar into new season.


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