Grant Leadbitter scores the only goal of the game from the penalty spot against Bolton - Photo-North News and Pictures

Middlesbrough 1 Bolton Wanderers 0

THE biggest crowd of the season and the largest on a Saturday at the Riverside for over three years saw Aitor Karanka's first home game end in triumph. GORDON COX reports.

For his first home game in charge Aitor Karanka made four changes to the side beaten at Leeds last Saturday.

Jason Steele started a three-match suspension and was replaced by Shay Given, making his Boro debut and 600th club appearance.

Rhys Williams returned in place of Frazer Richardson, Ben Gibson came in for Daniel Ayala and Jacob Butterfield replaced Marvin Emnes. The three left out of the starting-line-up were all on the bench.

Dougie Freedman named an unchanged side from the win at Watford seven days ago and named Joe Mason on the bench after taking him on loan from Cardiff City in midweek.

Karanka was given a rousing reception when he was introduced just before kick-off, with fans in the North Stand enthusiastically waving thousands of red "Karanka-chiefs".

Boro fans with their "Karankachiefs" before the game with Bolton, the first in charge for Aitor Karanka - Photo-North News and Pictures

On the pitch, Boro had the better of the early exchanges but wasted three good opportunities to deliver quality crosses from out wide.

Given had little to do as Boro retained possession, dictating the pace of the game, probing and calculating, but not coming up with the right answers often enough to give Andy Lonergan anything to do.

A free-kick from out deep on the right was well handled by Given, but the next one conceded brought the fifth yellow card of the season for Grant Leadbitter and he will miss Wednesday's trip to Derby.

Butterfield was lively enough to suggest he may be the one to spark something in an advanced position, but one shot was wide and another blocked as he looked for a way through.

George Friend pulled a low shot wide from the edge of the box after clever footwork had set him up, but it was from Boro's first corner that they almost opened the scoring as Leadbitter swung over from the right and Gibson, despite Bolton pulling all 11 men back into the penalty area, headed just over.

A few knocks, bumps and bruises added three minutes to a game of chess.

Half-time: Boro 0 Bolton 0

During the half-time break ex-Boro star Franck Queudrue was introduced to the crowd, to rapturous applause and edited highlights of the Carling Cup win on the big screen. Soon afterwards there was a touching tribute to Georgina Anderson, whose story has touched thousands and who sadly passed away just days after Boro's last home game.

One of her songs, Two Thirds Of A Piece, a beautifully melodic number, was played through the stadium with the advisory on the screen that it is available on iTunes. Do yourself a favour and download it!

The second half turned into a much more open affair compared to the first and twice Jermaine Beckford was presented with half-chances which he failed to take.

Richard Smallwood was off target when set up by Kei Kamara 22 yards out, but Curtis Main, on for Muzzy Carayol, was just inches away with an excellent effort struck low from the edge of the penalty area.

Five minutes after his first change Karanka made another as Butterfield made way for Marvin Emnes.

With just over 10 minutes remaining Emnes was brought down inside the penalty area and Grant Leadbitter sent Lonergan the wrong way from the spot.

Relief coursed through the stadium, but this game was not over.

Freedman made two changes before the game restarted and the visitors found an extra yard.

With 87 minutes played Williams brought down Andre Moritz just inside the penalty area and Wanderers were handed a great chance to draw level.

Shay Given - Photo-North News and Pictures

Has it been on target it would have been just the second of the game where Given was forced into action. However, Beckford blasted well over the bar and the Riverside reacted as though Boro had scored again.

There were a couple of half-chances in what was at times a frantic finale, but this was Boro's day and Bolton's first defeat in nine had seen Karanka off to a winning start at home.

Scorer: Leadbitter, 81, (pen)

Middlesbrough: Given; R Williams, Woodgate, (Capt), Gibson, Friend, Adomah, Leadbitter, Smallwood (Whitehead 84), Carayol (Main 62), Butterfield (Emnes 67), Kamara. Subs: Konstantopoulos (gk); Richardson, Ayala, Ledesma.

Bolton Wanderers: Lonergan; Mills, Ream, Baptiste, McNaughton, Medo (Mason 83), Spearing, Danns, Pratley (Moritz 70), Lee (Ngog 83), Beckford. Subs: Lee-Barrett (gk); Knight, Eagles, Hall. Order of subs on 83: 1) Mason 2) Ngog.

Referee: Mark Brown

Middlesbrough: Leadbitter
, 23, foul; Gibson, 54, foul.

Bolton Wanderers: Beckford, 90, foul.

Attendance: 23,679 (859 Bolton)

Conditions: Cool and dry with a gentle breeze.

Possession: Middlesbrough 55% Bolton Wanderers 45%

Website Boro Man of the Match: Richard Smallwood




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