Middlesbrough 4 Brentford 0
FOUR goals, four different scorers and the biggest win for Boro under Aitor Karanka made for a pretty satisfying afternoon. Writes GORDON COX from the Riverside.
As ever Aitor Karanka kept everyone guessing with regards to his team line-up, when it arrived it confirmed Ryan Fredericks as the 100th different player used by Boro since relegation in 2009.
The full-back, on loan from Tottenham, replaced Damia Abella whose anterior cartilage injury at Cardiff on Tuesday will keep him out for at least six months.
It made for a young-looking back four with Ben Gibson returning in place of Daniel Ayala, suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season at Cardiff City Stadium.
Elsewhere there was a return for Dean Whitehead and Emilio Nsue and a first start for Patrick Bamford.
The Brentford side showed just one change from that which lost 3-0 at home to league-leaders Norwich on Tuesday. A scoreline which didn’t tell the whole story as the Bees had 24 shots in the game and Norwich scored twice late on.
Stuart Dallas missed out, replaced by Jota.
Boro were brighter in the opening minutes with Patrick Bamford just over with a shot from distance.
Grant Leadbitter is in such good form he’s entitled to shoot when he sniffs a chance, though his strike after 11 minutes was off target.
The skipper’s through ball to Albert Adomah looked for a moment to have threaded the eye of a needle, but in fact carried just too much weight.
Nsue was next to threaten and a delicate chip from the edge of the area only just cleared the bar.
Mixed in between these chances and half chances for Boro, the visitors had shown themselves to be a lively, organised tam and passing the mid-point of the half had won the games only two corners to that point.
It was around that time that Fredericks picked up the first yellow card of the game. It was a worrying development, not for the tackle as that was firm and ball-winning, but for the fact the referee deemed it worthy of such a punishment.
James Tarkowski seemed similarly harshly treated when adjudged to have blocked Adomah’s run, but despite the stoppages there was a good flow to the game.
Fredericks, Nsue and a clever dummy from Vossen combined to set up Bamford on the edge of the box. He just cleared the bar, but Boro were getting closer.
With 35 minutes played the breakthrough was made in spectacular style as Grant Leadbitter in excess of 30 yards from goal, took aim and unleashed a shot which had power, dip, swerve and a label hanging from it which said simply Unstoppable.
It wasn’t until the 43rd minute that Brentford had their first shot, a powerful-enough, but off-target shot from Alex Pritchard from the edge of the penalty area.
It wasn’t long after that Boro were applauded from the field.
Half-time Middlesbrough 1 Brentford 0
It didn’t take long for Boro to increase their lead.
With just five minutes of the second half played Nsue moved away quickly down the right, set away by Vossen. A low cross was precisely played into the path of Albert Adomah, who slid in to turn home from close range – his first goal at the Riverside since December 29 and a 3-0 win over Reading.
Adomah could have added a second not long after, but hit the side-netting when arriving late at the back post to meet another Nsue cross.
Boro were dominant, after more and nearly getting it with flowing football and runs off the ball that had Brentford, at times, wondering which way to look.
But they were plucky, spirited and were determined to try and get something from their long trip north and it took a helping hand to clear as Dimi Konstantopoulos couldn’t hold a powerful drive from Pritchard.
Just past the mid-point of the second half Boro put the result beyond reasonable doubt when Nsue sent over another cross and Patrick Bamford glanced in a header from close range to register his first Boro goal.
The only sour note on an otherwise highly-successful afternoon was the 83rd minute dismissal of Whitehead, shown a straight red for a high, mistimed tackle.
Nsue wasn’t far away with a chip from the edge of the penalty area, but an emphatic victory was wrapped up when Kike, on as a sub for Bamford, latched on to a superbly-weighted ball over the top from Gibson and chip which oozed class left David Button stranded and a forlorn-looking figure.
Boro were good value for this win, a fact not lost on the Boro fans who offered loud cheers and rich applause on the final whistle.
Scorers Leadbitter 35; Adomah 50; Bamford 68; Kike 88.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Fredericks, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend, Nsue, Whitehead (Capt. from 70), Leadbitter (Capt to 70.) (Clayton 70), Adomah, Vossen (Reach 84), Bamford (Kike 75). Subs: Blackman (gk); Tomlin, Husband, Woodgate.
Brentford: Button; Bidwell, Dean, Odubajo (Toral 74), Tarkowski, Douglas (Capt), McCormack, Jota (Proschwitz 65), Judge, Pritchard (Tebar 65), Gray. Subs: Bonham (gk); Craig, Moore, Betinho. Order of subs on 65 1) Proschwitz 2) Tebar.
Referee Jeremy Simpson
Sent off Whitehead, 83. Straight red for a foul.
Middlesbrough Fredericks, 22, foul; Bamford, foul, 53.
Brentford Tarkowski, 32, foul.
Attendance 15,484 (567 Brentford)
Conditions Cool, damp, overcast and breezy.
Possession: Middlesbrough 53% Brentford 47%
Boro Website 3-2-1: 3 Leadbitter 2 Nsue 1 Fredericks