Middlesbrough captain must lead by example against Brentford
Championship promotion front-runners for so much of the season, Middlesbrough had to settle for a play-off spot in the end after slipping to a thrilling 4-3 loss to Fulham.
It could be about to get even worse for the Teesiders too after Boro finished the campaign in fourth.
Statistically speaking, that could be the kiss of death for the north east club, with just five of the
last 28 promotions via the Championship play-offs achieved by the team sitting in fourth.
Their upcoming opponents, Brentford, by contrast, could be sitting pretty with seven of the last 28 play-off winners finishing fifth.
The Bees certainly have more momentum going into the first-leg of their semi-final at Griffin Park, having won their previous two Championship games, scoring five unanswered goals in the process.
Middlesbrough, meanwhile, picked up just one point from the previous six available to slip down to fourth, shipping three goals against Fulham – a team Brentford recently hammered 4-1.
It all paints a picture of one team in decline and another in the ascendancy but in Grant Leadbitter, Boro still have a captain and leader capable of getting them over the line.
Patrick Bamford may have taken the award for Championship Player of the Year, but it’s Leadbitter who has been a driving force behind the Teesiders’ campaign.
Once of Sunderland and more recently Ipswich, the 29-year-old is in the midst of his most prolific season to date as a professional with 11 goals to his name already this term.
More crucially still, Leadbitter boasts a fine record against Brentford this season, having scored home and away against the Bees in the Championship.
In fact, the north east side have won each and every time their captain has got on the scoresheet this season – including both those games against Brentford.
Capable of shooting from distance and on penalty duty for Boro, backing a goal for Leadbitter as part of a Boro win could prove shrewd bet.
He was certainly full of fighting talk after his team’s 4-3 defeat to Fulham, which ensured Bournemouth and Watford were promoted with a game to spare.
“The dressing room will not need lifting for play-offs because we want to achieve as players and we want to achieve for Middlesbrough Football Club,” he explained.
It’s time for Leadbitter and Ladbrokes punters to put their money where their mouth is.
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