Alex Palmer, player availability and Adebayo: Key takeaways as Middlesbrough edge the Hatters
Our three-game winning streak came to an end at the Riverside Stadium yesterday afternoon, with Middlesbrough running out as 2-1 winners.
The hosts were awarded a penalty in the 17th minute, a spot-kick that entered ‘you see them given, you see them dismissed’ territory, with Paddy McNair coolly slotting past debutant Alex Palmer.
Both sides had opportunities for an all-important second goal from that point on, with the home side eventually getting it through Duncan Watmore.
Harry Cornick halved the deficit six minutes into injury time, however, it proved to be too little too late as Middlesbrough held on for a vital three points in the complex of their season.
The goalkeeping situation
First and foremost, Alex Palmer walked into a very challenging situation yesterday, with the 25-year-old being confined to a lack of first-team football at West Brom.
In accordance with EFL guidelines, the Baggies shot-stopper, who was brought in as an emergency loan, had to be named in the starting XI.
Whilst Harry Isted deserves a lot of credit for his display against Chelsea, we made the right call in bringing in a temporary option in goal.
Should we have dismissed that option then we would have been left with Isted, with Jameson Horlick as a secondary option perhaps, who is an even younger and inexperienced choice.
In an ideal world, and without EFL guidelines preventing this situation, it would have been great to see Isted in-between the sticks, with an emergency loan option as a back-up.
Palmer thoroughly impressed whilst on loan at Lincoln City last time out and he certainly has the ability at Championship level.
It is fair to say that Palmer struggled, but ultimately, I am not forming an opinion on one game where he has been chucked into the fray with limited preparation.
Cannot take player availability for granted
It appeared to be a great time for the Hatters, with Luke Berry and Jordan Clark returning to full fitness, whilst the addition of Robert Snodgrass has bolstered our midfield options even more.
Now, within the space of four days, we could see four of our integral first-teamers out injured, with Gabe Osho, Jed Steer, Kal Naismith and Allan Campbell, all coming off over the last couple of games.
Squad depth is something we pride ourselves on this season, making the unavailability of a few players not too damaging, however, you want a full-strength side when chasing down a play-off spot.
Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu has also missed the last few games with Nathan Jones citing fatigue as to why he has been rested.
It will be interesting to see who Jones will have available to him on Tuesday night when we visit Coventry City, with Fred Onyedinma also missing from yesterday’s squad.
Elijah Adebayo can make vital contributions even when not performing well
Elijah Adebayo was far from the best we have seen him, however, our goal was made by the 24-year-old.
Managing to win the physical battle against Dael Fry, Adebayo then spun the in-demand Middlesbrough defender before teeing up Harry Cornick with an inch-perfect cross.
It is frustrating when Adebayo does not perform like we know he can because we have seen him in unplayable form at times this season.
However, it is moments like yesterday in the 96th minute that reminds us why we need him as a forward option when we are chasing a game.
A similar scenario played out when we were losing away to Derby County earlier in the season, with Adebayo managing to nod past Ryan Allsop to restore parity.