At This Stage: August 2023


By Pete H

Blink and you miss it; August is (all but) done and dusted – and we might as well be plunged into the depths of winter now. For Boro’, we’re enjoying a decent return to League One. As one month ends and the new one starts, we find ourselves five league matches into the 2023-4 term. It’s not a flawless start, but – then again – they rarely are. Our six-match winning run to open the 1999-00 campaign is an exception to the rule. But, overall, where do we stand at this stage in comparison to past seasons?

League One comparison at this stage

Boro’ have three previous League One seasons to look back upon. Broadly speaking, we’re in a good spot. We have three wins, one draw, and one defeat from the opening five, which is a nice round 10 points from our early-season work. It does, however, leave us one point worse off than our start to the 2012-3 campaign; one where we opened up with three wins and two draws. So, you can see where that point difference comes in.

But that’s the ‘bad’ news. On the flip side, we’re a lot better off at this stage when compared to the 2011-2 season. If you remember, we ended up making the playoffs that season. Yet we only had six points after five games; winning one, drawing three, and losing one. So, it’s way too early to draw conclusions at this point. Even our 2013-4 League One season got off to an alright start; winning one, drawing one, and losing three – taking four points.


Of course, losing three from the opening five is never amazing. But it’s only two points worse than what proved to be a highly successful 2011-2. So, what d’ya reckon?


Are there any notable lookalike seasons?

Out of all the seasons competing in senior competitions, Boro’s points total has been on 10 (or more) at this point in 19 different seasons. The 2023-4 campaign is now the eighth where we’ve been on exactly 10. Mind you, we can’t count the 1980-1 season on the same terms. In that era, we were only earning two points for a win – and we won our opening five games of that United Counties League Division One season.

Out of the rest, we have some eye-catching seasons in which we were sat on 10 points after five fixtures. The most notable was the 1995-6 campaign – where most of you (if not all) will know we went on to win the GM Vauxhall Conference. We also had a title-winning season in 1992-3. But the 1996-7 campaign was a carbon copy from a points perspective – and, like the rest, was a season in which we ultimately fell short of our ambitions.


The lowest we’ve ever finished after being on 10 points after five games is sixth – when we failed to make the Blue Square Premier playoffs at the end of the 2007-8 season).


The best and the worst after five games

To have a perfect record after five games is rare – but not impossible. We’ve done it on four occasions, which includes the 1980-1 season we’ve already talked about. The other three, in contrast, were at a time when we were pulling three points for a win.

  • 1984-5: Boro’ stepped up to the Isthmian League for the first time – and felt at home in no time at all. We ended up in fourth, four points off the top two promotion spots.
  • 1985-6: Using the experience of the previous season, Boro’ went all the way; clinching a second-ever league championship with the Division Two North crown.
  • 1999-00: Dickie Hill’s side stormed out of the blocks. But our form took a severe dip as autumn swept in. Hill lost his job before the season was out and we landed mid-table.

So, what about our worst-ever records at this stage of a season? August 2023 stands in very good stead compared with 2006, 2008, and 2019. What a weird mix. For the first two, Stimmo and GW Mk II made slow starts to their respective reigns. But both seasons ended on a high; the FA Trophy on both occasions, with the latter also including a playoff place. And that was a far cry from starting things off with just two points (two draws and three defeats).

Mad to think that we also started the 2019-20 season with two points from five games!


Boro’ may start slow sometimes – but we’ve never been waiting more than four games for our first league point; starting 2006-7 and 2013-4 with three straight defeats.


Main photo: Jim Steele

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