Barry Robson celebrates after scoring against Birmingham City - Photo-Martyn Harrison

Middlesbrough 3 Birmingham City 1

Boro made just one change to the side that won at Barnsley as Tony McMahon returned from suspension to replace Justin Hoyte, who missed out with a thigh strain.

The Birmingham side showed two changes from the line-up that drew in Madeira on Thursday night as Liam Ridgewell missed out altogether and Chris Wood dropped to the bench.

Back came midfielder Keith Fahey, who missed the Europa League game through injury, and in came Irish striker Adam Rooney, signed in the summer from Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

City cut out much of the early running, with tricky winger Nathan Redmond causing his fair share of problems on the left.

It was his shot from distance which had Carl Ikeme scampering across his goal to ensure the effort went no closer than the side netting.

Boro looked good going forward and former Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill was at full stretch to keep out a low, 22-yard drive from Barry Robson.

Scott McDonald did well to keep play moving with the ball close to the goal-line, but his pull-back to Marvin Emnes was just too far away from the Dutchman.

Right-winger Chris Burke had been highlighted as a danger before the game and that judgement proved sound as he fizzed a low cross through the Boro penalty area, six-yard box and beyond. It just evaded Rooney before rolling out of harm's way.

A low shot from McDonald, again from outside the box, once more had Myhill at full stretch, but it was a run and shot from Emnes that brought the goalkeeper into action again. McDonald was ready to pounce on the rebound, but former Boro full-back David Murphy stepped in to slam the ball out for a corner.

It was Ikeme who was back in action minutes later, diving away to his right to keep out a 30-yard free-kick from Redmond.

City had deployed men in the right areas to keep Boro occupied and it was going to take something special or a mistake to bring a goal in a tight encounter.

That something special almost came on 34 minutes when Robson sent McMahon away inside the box, but with the angle narrowing he elected to shoot instead of pulling back to better-placed team-mates and his shot smacked off Myhill's right-hand post.

The mistake came on 36 minutes, from the referee who awarded a penalty when Ikeme was adjudged to have brought down Burke after racing out to make a second save after blocking an initial effort. It looked as though Burke was falling before any contact, if indeed there was any. The linesman, looking directly at play gave nothing - and the reaction of the fans in that area of the ground said it all.

Adam Rooney, who took the penalties for Inverness last season, stepped up to drill this one low past Ikeme, who went the right way.

Half-time: Middlesbrough 0 Birmingham City 1

Tony Mowbray made a change at half-time, replacing McDonald with Faris Haroun, who took the field to cheers on his Boro debut. McDonald had been caught when contesting a 50-50 in the opening minute and while he looked okay, no chances were being taken.

With one striker out of action, it was a worry when Emnes was heavily clattered, just up from the left-hand edge of the penalty area. He was able to continue after a couple of minutes' treatment and from the resultant free-kick Boro drew level. Barry Robson drilled in a low shot off Myhill's left-hand post, with the ball appearing to brush back off the goalkeeper on its way in.

Boro were now seeing more of the ball and when Robson did well to pull back a cross with pace, Myhill was beaten and Curtis Davies headed out for a corner from under the crossbar.

Birmingham were sitting deep and had seven men including Myhill inside the penalty area when repelling Boro's next attack.

Midway through the half Haroun made a fine run behind the City back line and when he was picked out with a pinpoint pass, his low shot on the turn deflected for a corner.

But he didn't have to wait long to have the cheers of the crowd ringing in his ears.

With 69 minutes played Joe Bennett darted into the penalty area and although he looked to have played the ball too far he just managed to get his toe to it and poke it forward.

The attempted pass should have been intercepted but was instead played, via a deflection, into the path of Faris Haroun, who looked offside when he turned in from around three yards, although later video evidence suggested he had been level.

If there is better goal scored at the Riverside this season than Boro's third, then fans will indeed be blessed.

With 72 minutes played Malaury Martin took possession a few yards up from the right-hand edge of the Birmingham penalty area, took aim and sent a powerful and dipping shot into the top left-hand corner of Myhill's net. It was a truly majestic finish from the Frenchman.

Boro had turned the game on its head from the half-time time score, simply by sticking to what they have become good at - patient, attractive, attacking football.

The third goal allowed them more time to control the game. City's challenged faded and Boro could have had more.

But despite their upbeat mood, Boro fans hadn't forgotten City's penalty and when Burke was booked in the final minute of normal time there was a huge cheer. The former Rangers and Cardiff man had been booed each time he had gone near the ball since the 36th minute.

There was louder cheering, loud applause and a standing ovation at the final whistle, in appreciation of another job well done. It's now one defeat in 17 games for Boro.

Scorers: Rooney 36 (pen); Robson 47; Haroun 69; Martin 72;

Middlesbrough: Ikeme; McMahon, Bates (Capt), McManus, Bennett, Robson, R Williams, Bailey, Arca (Martin 67), McDonald (Haroun 46), Emnes. Subs Coyne (gk); Hines, Smallwood.

Birmingham City: Myhill; Carr (Capt), Davies, Caldwell, Murphy, Fahey, Burke, Spector (Wood 72), Beausejour, Redmond, Rooney. Subs Doyle (gk); Dann, Asante, Hubbins.

Referee: Mark Brown, East Yorkshire.


Middlesbrough: Robson
, 24, shirt tug; Ikeme, 36, foul.

Birmingham City: Caldwell, 74, foul; Burke, 89, foul.

Attendance: 17, 567 (591)

Conditions: Warm and sunny

Website Boro Man of the Match: Barry Robson 




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