Middlesbrough 2-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 29th Dec 2018 16:57
Jordan Hugill netted a contentious 37th-minute penalty and sub Marcus Tavernier added a second on 72 as Middlesbrough beat Town 2-0 at the Riverside Stadium. The Blues had the better of the few first-half chances but found themselves behind from the spot after Jordan Spence was adjudged to have fouled Hugill, with Tavernier’s goal sealing the three points in the second half.
Myles Kenlock was handed his first appearance under Paul Lambert having returned from an ankle injury with Jonas Knudsen dropping to the bench, the first time the Blues boss had made a change to his back four since taking charge.
Gwion Edwards took over from Grant Ward, who is out for at least nine months having suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury at QPR, on the right of the front three with Kayden Jackson coming in for Ellis Harrison, who dropped to the bench, down the middle.
Former Blue Grant Leadbitter wasn’t in the Boro 18 - but wandered into the press room before the match - while Town target Rudy Gestede was among the Teessiders’ subs.
The home side were first to threaten in the fifth minute, Jonny Howson finding space on the right of the box before hitting a shot which deflected wide off Kenlock.
There were no further opportunities at either end in the opening 10 minutes but with a scrappy affair largely being played in Town’s half, although with Boro rarely being able to break into the final third.
On 11, a Lewis Wing freekick from the right was cleared out to Stewart Downing and the former England international hit an effort from the edge of the box which looped over Dean Gerken’s crossbar.
The Blues created their first chance of the game in the 13th minute. After good work from Flynn Downes and Jon Nolan, Kenlock cut in from the left and played a clever reverse pass in to Freddie Sears who hit a low shot which Boro keeper Darren Randolph claimed comfortably.
Trevoh Chalobah was shown the game’s first yellow card in the 18th minute for pulling back George Saville having lost possession as the Blues looked to pass their way out of defence, far from the first time Town had given away the ball in such circumstances during the opening spell.
In the aftermath of the freekick, Teessiders’ skipper George Friend blazed over, then in the 22nd minute one-time Blues target Hugill shot high and wide at the end of a pacy Boro attack.
Two minutes later, Randolph palmed over a looping Luke Chambers header from the edge of the box, then from the resultant corner on the right the Blues almost took the lead.
Nolan sent the ball over and Chalobah headed goalwards only for Randolph to dive across to his right and get a strong arm on the ball to divert what looked set to be the opening goal past the post.
Town began to pass the ball around confidently but without getting into threatening areas. Boro meanwhile were getting scruffier, losing the ball needlessly much to the frustration of their fans.
Spence shot well over from distance for the Blues on 31, then two minutes later Hugill volleyed over for the home side after Town had made heavy weather of clearing a Wing freekick in from the right.
Saville struck a not overly taxing effort straight at Gerken from 25 yards in the 35th minute - their first effort on target - to sarcastic cheers from the home fans.
But two minutes later the Boro support were cheering the game’s opening goal. A cross was sent over from the right and Spence was somewhat harshly adjudged to have hauled Hugill to the ground as they challenged for the aerial ball.
Referee Jeremy Simpson, an official never shy to award a penalty having given three in Town’s game at Reading a couple of seasons ago, pointed straight to the spot. After the Blues had made their obvious frustrations known, Hugill beat Gerken to give the Teessiders a lead they hadn’t really deserved.
Downes joined Chalobah in the book for a frustrated foul on Aden Flint in the 39th minute, then in first-half injury time the Blues almost levelled.
Jackson robbed Flint on the Town left then fed Nolan, who played the ball in to Sears, whose reverse shot was blocked by the advancing Randolph. Nolan might well have been better off playing in Edwards, who was breaking into the box on the right.
The Blues could count themselves a touch unlucky to be behind at the break after a half in which they’d had the better of the few chances with Randolph the keeper forced to make the more decisive saves.
Boro’s fans were beginning to express their frustrations with their side more vocally when referee Simpson gave them what looked at best a generous penalty.
The early period of the second half returned to the scruffiness of much of the first with chances continuing to be rare at both ends.
On 53 Blues Chambers read a low ball played across the area for Wing and was caught on the ankle by the Boro midfielder as he cleared. The Blues skipper looked in a great deal of pain and received treatment on the pitch before continuing, much to the relief of the Town management and support.
Town were finding themselves under increasing pressure as the hour mark approached and in the 59th minute Boro went close to their second goal. Saville found Hugill in space on the left of the box but Gerken pawed his goalbound effort away.
Moments later, Downes appeared to catch Saville as he broke into the area, an incident which at first viewing looked more of a penalty than the one awarded in the first half, but on this occasion referee Simpson waved away the home side’s protests.
Boro sub Marcus Tavernier was yellow-carded for pulling back Spence on the Blues right on 66, soon after having replaced Downing. The freekick ultimately came to nothing but Town were beginning play more of the game in the Boro half.
The Blues swapped Jackson for Jordan Roberts in the 71st minute but before the former Crawley man could make an impact the Teessiders doubled their lead.
Howson found Tavernier breaking into the area on the left and the England U20 international hit a low shot which somehow snuck under Gerken and into the net with the keeper clearly frustrated that he had allowed it past him.
Andre Dozzell replaced Nolan in the Town midfield for the final 11 minutes with the game looking all but over.
Gerken claimed Hugill’s looping header from Friend’s cross in the 81st minute, then on 87 the Blues keeper made a double save, stopping sub Adam Clayton’s well-struck shot from the edge of the box, then grabbing Friend’s deflected follow-up at the second attempt.
Town created their best chance of the half in the 89th minute, Kenlock crossing from the left and Roberts heading wide of Randolph’s left post.
In injury time, Gerken saved well from Wing who really should have made it 3-0 having been found in space eight yards out, then Friend headed well over.
Seconds before the whistle, Gerken made an even more impressive save to deny Hugill, flying away to his left to tip what was a header bound for the corner of the net wide.
Having been unfortunate in the first half, the Blues rarely threatened in the second and once Boro had established their two-goal lead - their second another goal which looked very preventable - there was little doubt where the points would go, a familiar scenario in recent weeks. In the end only a succession of excellent Gerken saves stopped the margin of victory from being more significant.
The gap to safety remains at seven points, Bristol City having scored a late winner at home to 21st-placed Rotherham, but Millwall, who Town host in a vital game at Portman Road on New Year's Day, are now 10 points ahead of the Blues in 20th.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend (c), Ayala (Batth 90), Hugill, Howson, Downing (Tavernier 61), Fry, Saville, Flint, Wing, Besic (Clayton 86). Unused: Lonergan, Assombalonga, McNair, Gestede.
Town: Gerken, Spence, Chambers (c), Pennington, Kenlock, Chalobah, Nolan (Dozzell 79), Downes, Edwards, Sears, Jackson (Roberts 71). Unused: Bialkowski, Knudsen, Harrison, Bishop, Nsiala. Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire). Att: 23,334 (Town: 362).
Photo: Action Images
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