Middlesbrough 2-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 9th Dec 2017 16:56
Goals either side of the break from Martin Braithwaite and Patrick Bamford saw Middlesbrough to a 2-0 victory over the Blues at the Riverside Stadium. Braithwaite profited from a series of Town defensive errors to give the Teessiders the lead on 44 with Bamford adding the second with a low shot off the inside of the post six minutes into the second half.
Skipper Luke Chambers returned to the Town side but otherwise the Blues were unchanged from the team which beat Nottingham Forest 4-2 last weekend with manager Mick McCarthy opting to stick with Martyn Waghorn in the lone striker’s role, despite Joe Garner’s return from his foot injury.
Chambers, who was suspended against Forest, went back into his central defensive role with Jordan Spence switching to right-back and Dominic Iorfa dropping to the bench.
Michael Crowe was the sub keeper with Dean Gerken having suffered a minor injury, while Flynn Downes was also in the 18 having been suspended last week. Former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter started for Boro and wore their captain’s armband.
Leadbitter was one of three changes for the Teessiders with Daniel Ayala back from suspension at the centre of the defence and Bamford starting up front. Adam Forshaw, Dael Fry and Adama Traore dropped to the bench.
Town created the first chance of the half in the eighth minute. Bersant Celina was played in on the left and crossed for Waghorn but Ben Gibson got in ahead of the Blues’ 10-goal top scorer to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Boro had had most of the ball in the opening quarter of an hour but has been unable to strike an effort towards goal until the 17th minute when Stewart Downing’s shot deflected up into the air and into Bartosz Bialkowski’s arms.
A minute later, they could have taken the lead when Downing’s freekick from midway inside the Town half towards the left found Gibson unmarked in the penalty area but the former England U21 international scuffed a weak effort to Bialkowski, who claimed comfortably down to his right.
Former Town captain Leadbitter was shown the first yellow card of the game on 21 for felling Spence as he broke away on the Town right.
Chances had been few and far between at both ends but on 25 Boro weren’t too far away from opening the scoring when Downing’s fine cross found Fabio breaking into the area having got away from Ward on the left from where the former Cardiff man volleyed wide.
Ayala was fortunate not to see a card of either colour in the 28th minute when he appeared to knee Callum Connolly as the pair battled as a ball was sent into the box. The on-loan Everton man was left on the floor holding his face but referee Robert Jones, taking charge of only his sixth Championship match, felt a talking-to and the pair shaking hands was sufficient.
Former Canary Ayala didn’t take too much longer to get his name in the book, however, the Spaniard clattering through the back of Waghorn on halfway in the 31st minute to earn himself a yellow card.
Britt Assombalonga had had a quiet half but on 35 the former Forest man found space just outside the box, however, sent his shot high and wide to much derision from the increasingly frustrated home support.
Boro’s £15 million summer signing was given another chance in the 40th minute when Braithwaite played him in on the right of the area but his shot was too close to Bialkowski, who palmed behind.
On 41 Ward was tripped just outside the box as he tried to take the ball past a defender, however, referee Jones waved away the former Spurs man’s protests.
Ward caused more danger a minute later. His cross from the right reached Celina beyond the far post. The Kosovan international teed-up Emyr Huws, whose shot was blocked. The ball was subsequently played into the box for Waghorn as confusion reigned in the Boro defence but the striker was unable to turn home.
A minute before the break the home side went in front. After Huws had lost possession on halfway, Downing left Knudsen in his wake on the right and sent over a cross which Ward inadvertently diverted back across the six-yard box and after a brief scramble Braithwaite shot into the roof of the net.
There was no time for the Blues to hit back before referee Jones brought the half to an end.
Up until the goal, again more down to a series of defensive mistakes than anything else, Town had largely been comfortable with the home side having most of the ball but without creaing too many real openings.
The Blues had looked to catch the Teessiders on the break but had been unable to carve out a serious chance, despite getting into a decent situations on a couple of occasions.
Town switched Garner for Huws ahead of the second half with the former Rangers man taking up his usual role as the lone striker with Waghorn moving back into the position occupied by Huws in the first half. There was also a change of referee with fourth official Geoff Eltringham taking over from Jones.
Six minutes after the restart the home side doubled their lead. Bamford brought the ball in from the right before hitting a low 20-yard shot which flew beyond Bialkowski and into the net off the inside of the post.
Boro, full of confidence after their goals, went looking for a third, but Knudsen superbly slid in to dispossess Assombalonga after he had been played in on goal by Bamford.
If Town were to get anything out of the match they needed a foothold quickly and they weren’t far away in the 57th minute when Knudsen crossed from the left but Waghorn diverted the ball over. Two minutes later, Celina was yellow-carded for pulling back Leadbitter.
Despite Waghorn’s chance, the Blues were looking particularly likely to get back into it and on 61 Blues boss McCarthy swapped Ward and Celina for Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears.
But the home side continued to dominate and create the odd chance here and there, Assombalonga heading a right-wing cross over in the 69th minute. Five minutes later, Braithwaite’s deflected shot looped harmlessly through to Bialkowski.
The hugely influential Downing was replaced by Marvin Johnson to a warm ovation from the Riverside crowd on 77 with Webster undergoing treatment having collided with Bialkowski as a Boro cross had come over. Both were able to continue. Three minutes later, Bamford was replaced by Rudy Gestede.
On 80 Garner shot straight at Boro keeper Darren Randolph, who had had a very quiet afternoon, the eight minutes later Connolly was found in space in the Boro area after Town’s best spell of passing in the home side’s half of the period. However, a Teessiders’ defender blocked his attempt on goal.
In the final scheduled minute, sub Johnson hit a shot which deflected through to Bialkowski, then deep in the three minutes of injury time Leadbitter was replaced by Adam Forshaw. Moments before replacement official Eltringham blew his whistle, Braithwaite curled a freekick wide.
The game followed virtually the same narrative as the Aston Villa match a fortnight ago. The Blues looked set to go in level at the break but just as they did at Villa Park gifted a goal to the home side through a series of defensive mistakes.
Half-time sub Garner hadn’t had a chance to make an impact when Boro scored their second, Bamford being allowed the space to get in his shot from distance.
There was no way back from there for the Blues who were never able to impose themselves on a Boro side which having gone ahead was buoyant and looked more likely to score a third than Town were their first.
The defeat, the Blues’ sixth on the road this season, sees McCarthy’s side drop a place behind the Teessiders on goal difference to ninth with Leeds moving up to seventh.
Town, now five points off the top six, are next in action against 15th-placed Reading at Portman Road next Saturday.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Fabio, Leadbitter (c) (Forshaw 90), Howson, Downing (Johnson 77), Braithwaite, Bamford (Gestede 80), Assombalonga. Unused: Konstantopoulos, Friend, Fry, Traore.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers (c), Webster, Knudsen, Skuse, Connolly, Ward (Bishop 61), Huws (Garner 46), Celina (Sears 61), Waghorn. Unused: M Crowe, Iorfa, Downes, Kenlock. Referee: Robert Jones (Merseyside) (Geoff Eltringham (County Durham) 46). Att: 22,989 (Town: 434).
Photo: Action Images
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