Michael Carrick Explained How He feels About The Draw And Praises Keys Players That Impress Him

How Middlesbrough’s squad players did at Bradford as they looked to impress Michael Carrick

Michael Carrick offered numerous opportunities to squad players in the friendly at Bradford City

Michael Carrick offered Middlesbrough’s squad players an opportunity to impress in Wednesday night’s friendly with Bradford City.

In a game that ended 3-3 with Boro goals from Sammy Silvera, Alex Gilbert and Dan Nkrumah, it was very much a team of players that would currently be considered outside of the starting XI currently. That’s with the exception of Paddy McNair who returned from injury to top up his minutes and fill in at right-back where Boro have injury troubles.

Publicly, Carrick noted that the game was used to top-up and balance minutes for players who needed that little bit extra ahead of the season. But it seemed clear, particularly with the nine senior players not injured but missing at the University at Bradford Stadium, that this was a team of players currently making up the bench/squad options for Boro.

But Carrick will always be happy to hand out opportunities when they’re earned and therefore this was an opportunity for all the players appearing to make a statement to the Boro head coach and stake their claim ahead of the new season. So how did they do? We take a closer look.


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Tom Glover
All three of Bradford’s goals were conceded by Glover, with Jamie Jones replacing him not long after the hour mark. It’s fair to say though, that it’s only the first that he’ll be disappointed with. It’s part of the style of play that Boro play out from the goalkeeper, but, as Zack Steffen learned last season, there is a time to do it and a time to look elsewhere.


Bradford’s first goal came as the home side pressed Boro hard and despite the pressure on young Jack Stott as he showed for the ball on the edge of the box, Glover gave him it and invited the challenge which let the ball fall to Andy Cook to score his first. Stott wanted a foul, but in truth he didn’t ever want that ball in there. It was one of a couple of unconvincing balls out from the Australian keeper.


Glover is still learning the new role of course, and doing this in a pre-season friendly is perhaps well-timed, if it results in a better understanding in the future. He mixed it up as the game progressed and his longer balls over the Bradford press in the second half were very accurate, with one leading to Boro’s late equaliser.


Rav van den Berg

Cook provided a really tough test for Boro’s two young centre-backs, as Carrick paired van den Berg with Jack Hannah in order to have a look at McNair at right-back. To the Dutchman’s credit, it was regularly Hannah that Cook peeled off onto, with the big Bradford centre-forward able to use his strength more effectively against Hannah.


Neither Boro centre-back looked overly comfortable with the more physical aspects of the encounter, but Van den Berg showed his experience to deal with the challenge a little better than his partner. Comfortable playing out from the back too, it’s fair to see he’ll face few challenges like Cook in the Championship, and will hopefully be better for the experience.


Hayden Coulson

While Coulson has shown some positive signs over the course of the summer from an attacking viewpoint, he struggled to have much impact in this one as a weaker Boro side struggled for much control in the game. That meant Coulson didn’t get as many opportunities to attack the wings as he’d like.


Needed more defensively, his only real shakey moment came from the third goal as he was beaten by Cook in the air for the header back across goal from an indirect free-kick. It was a testament to Bradford’s many aerial threats from set-pieces that Coulson had to mark their target man striker, but he didn’t really stand a chance.


Martin Payero

Back in a central midfield role having played at ten against Rotherham, this looked a much more comfortable role for Payero as he played facing the opposition goal rather than with his back to it for the most part. If Payero was hoping to move into contention for a starting spot, however, this wasn’t really the performance he needed.


As noted, Boro struggled for much possession in the game. While there were some decent touches, passes and attempted drives with the ball from the Argentine, he was also far too easily pushed off the ball and once again struggled with the physical aspects of the game to be able to make enough of an impact and help his side win the midfield battle.


He neither took the game by the scruff of the net and dominated the middle of the park like an energetic Hayden Hackney so often does, nor dictate the tempo or help Boro control it in the manner Jonny Howson does, or Dan Barlaser showed signs of doing against both Rotherham and Real Betis.


Isaiah Jones

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After last season’s well-documented troubles off the pitch, Jones now has work to do to get back into the Boro side and recapture his best form of two seasons ago. This was a really promising start and most certainly his brightest performance in a Boro shirt for some time.

He attacked the right wing hard and was involved heavily in almost every Boro attack. His fantastic break beyond the last line was well picked out by Alex Gilbert as he ran through to slide across for Sammy Silvera to open the scoring. Another great run saw him then draw a foul to win the penalty for Boro’s second. Overall, that final ball could still do with improvement, but it was great to see Jones aggressively attacking and dribbling with the ball again.


Alex Gilbert

Having missed the Hartlepool and York friendlies through injury, Gilbert has been working his way back to fitness through the remaining summer friendlies and, in his first start of the summer, scored his second goal. Playing in the number ten role, Gilbert seemed to enjoy picking up the pockets of space in between the midfield and attack and getting on the ball to make things happen.


While he didn’t dominate the game in the same way that Chuba Akpom could in that role last season, what the ex-Brentford man did was provide guile that twice opened up the defence – setting Jones away to tee up Silvera for the first goal, and then producing a wonderful first-touch flick into Jones that resulted in the penalty. The signs are that Gilbert can be an effective forward to help Boro break down stubborn defences next season with elements of lateral thinking to his craft.


Sammy Silvera

Another goal for the Australian winger, he didn’t light up the game at Bradford, but he at least finished the game with a goal and an assist. He couldn’t really miss the one he scored, but it was his desire and pace to get into position during an incisive counterattack from Boro that meant he earned the goal.


His assist was an example of something he looked to do throughout as, following the example of fellow countryman Riley McGree, he floated inside away from his left flank, got on the ball and threaded through a lovely ball for Nkrumah to run onto and find a late equaliser. Another forward who shows signs of being exciting and capable of an end product for Boro’s attack this season.


Matthew Hoppe

Starting for the second time this summer as a centre-forward, Hoppe is yet to score, but did show some glimpses of his ability. He showed short for a couple of balls and showed the quality he has in his locker with some fine touches and clever flicks. He played his part in the first goal by showing short and then laying off for Gilbert to pick the pass to send Jones through. The movement of Hoppe helped drag the defence out of place too.

The USA international worked hard throughout and while often isolated against some far-bigger central defenders, he was persistent with his press and work-rate for Carrick’s side. The former Schalke and Mallorca man just couldn’t quite do enough to ever look like scoring, however. It was a largely quiet display, with only the odd opportunity to get on the ball, which was as much about the team performance as it was about Hoppe individually.

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