September 2023 ended with a bit of a bump for Boro’. But, with 10 league games now under our belt, how does our progress stack up against other seasons? We’re actually not far from being a quarter of the way through our 2023-4 Sky Bet League One obligations. Can we take the current league standings as set in stone? No. Can we look back on past seasons to get a better idea of how things have panned out? Why, certainly…
League One comparison at this stage
Carlisle United, Charlton Athletic, and Oxford United; three games in which Boro’ gained the upper hand and failed to collect all three points. It’s not normally costly at this stage of any season. But had any one of those three fixtures yielded a win, we’d be tracking on the same lines as our start to the 2012-3 campaign. As it is, we’re two points back – but we are five up on the 2011-2 season. And that ended up rather well.
Boro’s goal difference of +8 so far is the best we’ve recorded by this point of a League One campaign – even though we have one fewer goal to our name than in 2011 and 2012.
Hanging on to wins against both Carlisle and Charlton would put us on 22 points. That’s the same amount of points as we had on the board at this stage last season.
Are there any notable lookalike seasons?
Like last month, we need to stress that we’re only talking about Boro’s exploits and fortunes in senior competitions. The breakdown of our first 10 league games at this stage in terms of wins, draws, and defeats is the same as four previous seasons. That’s five wins, three draws, and two defeats. The only other time our points tally at this point was matched in history is the 1980-1 campaign, where nine wins (and one defeat) at two points a pop also gave us 18.
If Goal Difference is your secondary metric after points won, then 2023-4 leads the previous four occasions where we’ve been on 18 after 10. And that’s despite the fact that our tally of 15 Goals For trails the 1995-6 and 2017-8 seasons. Mind you, we’d had more in the Goals Against columns for those two campaigns too.
The best and the worst after 10 games
If it’s perfect starts you want, nine from nine is the best it’s ever been for Boro’; the class of 1985-6 standing alone with that achievement. But matchday 10 was their waterloo thanks to a 4-3 home defeat against Clapton. It means the 1993-4 season sweeps in at this point to be top of the pile; the only campaign in which we’ve still been unbeaten after 10 in the league.
It’s hard not to notice the incredible defensive record that Stimmo’s Boro’ had at this point back in 2007 either. That was the season in which we equalled a Conference record of eight clean sheets on the spin. It didn’t last though. And the 2007-8 season is the only one of the four below in which we failed to win their respective league title after such a strong start.
So, from the sublime to the ridiculous. While you can’t usually assume much even from the first 10 matches of a league season, the writing was already on the wall in 2019; Boro’ yet to win a game at this point and very much laying out their wee-stained stall for what would be left of the Covid-hit season. Our last outing in League One wasn’t much better either.
Boro’ have only failed seven times out of 44 seasons in senior league competition to reach double figures with their points tally. While this includes the 1981-2 campaign where it was still two points for a win, a return of three wins and seven draws would still only take us to nine points in modern currency. But such sluggish starts only resulted in one relegation*.
* if we’re counting 2019-20.
Main photo: Jim Steele