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The opening game never defines the season... time to take stock after dust settles.

Byline: Eric Paylor's views

THERE were plenty of smiles and a lot of backslapping after Boro's opener at Luton Town.

Fair enough. It was important, particularly for Jonathan Woodgate, that Boro did not lose their first game under his command.

However, despite all the headlines about the high level of excitement, we should not believe that this incredibly open game is typical of what it is come.

The opening game never defines a season, both in terms of performances and results.

The most important thing, now that the dust is settling, is that Woodgate and his coaches sit down and evaluate the areas where improvements are needed.

After all, Boro did not win the game. Yet they should have done so.

The intensity and electric pace of the clash was similar to an FA Cup tie, where a bigger team has to concentrate hard to deal with the playing-abovethemselves enthusiasm of a lower league side.

Luton were still being carried away on a wave of promotion euphoria. Yet, clearly, they will not set the Championship alight this season. Their unbeaten home record won't last long.

The heavy spells of attack that Luton produced put the Boro defence under intense pressure at times and Woodgate's men did not cope comfortably. In fact two of the Luton goals were the results of poor defending, the likes of which we did not often witness last season.

Daniel Ayala was awesome, but at times the general defensive play of the back five looked brittle.

It will be interesting to see if Woodgate brings in more defenders before the deadline.

It will also be interesting to see whether he changes the system and operates with three centre-backs once Dael Fry is ready to return.

The midfield competed well. Lewis Wing remains a breath of fresh air. From now on, we will all be willing him to shoot every time he gets the ball.

Marvin Johnson is to be applauded for the way in which he took his opportunity with both hands and he could remain a useful member of the squad. Yet I suspect new boy Marcus Browne will be in the team as soon as the West Ham winger fully settles in.

Woodgate will where improvement needed The greatest improvement Woodgate has so far instilled in the team is the way in which his new-look midfield pressed hard. Whenever Boro broke they got bodies forwards.

Once the pace of the Championship drops, as it inevitably will, then Boro's determination to surge forward in numbers can prove to be a telling new piece of their armoury.

This positive approach should be a goals-creator, in addition to providing much more excitement for the fans than watching 20 sideways passes.

Nobody misses penalties on purpose, so I was disappointed for Britt Assombalonga.

I was also a little disappointed that Wing didn't take the spot kick. It would be great if he could take the next one, but I suspect he won't.

I also think that Ashley Fletcher will be Boro's top scorer this season if he plays his fair share of games. He's a natural in front of goal.

While he is still a little bit of a luxury in general play, Ashley is too clinical a finisher to leave out.

However the development of the team as a whole could still take a different direction, depending on any additions that Woodgate is able to make to his squad over the next couple of days.

Recent history tells us Boro find it difficult to sign forwards, possibly because they cost that bit extra. On the evidence of the Luton game, signing defenders may be a priority for the evaluate is new boss.

Ashley Fletcher is a natural in front of goal

CAPTION(S):

Woodgate will evaluate where improvement is needed

Daniel Ayala was awesome, but at times the general defensive play of the back five looked brittle PAUL CHESTERTON/ FOCUS IMAGES

Britt Asssombalonga reacts to his missed penalty
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 7, 2019
Words:661
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