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Official Club Website of Middlesbrough FC

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EFL Championship

The Hawthorns

25,077

Ref: Geoff Eltringham

Matchday

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It was the final game of the year and, with the possible exception of last season’s 3-2 win at the same venue, the performance was arguably the best of the year.

It made it three wins out of three for Jonathan Woodgate’s side and to combine such a strong performance with a result against a team who are expected to be playing in the Premier League next season shows the optimism for the future.

In terms of pressing and attacking fluency, Boro were simply fantastic. The energy provided by the youngsters combined with the experienced heads made for a potent mix and for much of this contest, the league leaders were simply run ragged.

Boro had started on the front foot and had West Brom rocking inside 16 minutes when captain fantastic Dani Ayala headed home a 16th minute corner before wheeling away to celebrate in front of the 955 strong away following.

Moments later it was the only an outstretched foot of Sam Johnstone that prevented George Saville from making it 2-0 after another quick and well executed attack by Boro.

Next up to go close was Marcus Tavernier when a shot-come-cross from the Boro man eluded Johnstone but clipped the bar before bouncing to safety.

The home side’s first opportunity came shortly before half-time when Darnell Furlong headed over, but even then, Boro responded by moving the ball quickly up the park, courtesy of Hayden Coulson, and West Brom were forced into evasive action.

Saville and Lewis Wing both tested Johnstone again before the break as Boro continued to strike blows to the already bloodied noses of the league leaders.

Nothing in football is guaranteed, but it was as near a cert as you could get that West Brom would come out all guns firing in the second half, and so they did.

Aynsley Pears was called upon to make a good save to deny Jake Livermore as the hosts looked for a way back. Just as Boro had attacked with a verve during the first half, they dug deep as a unit in the second half. Pears was assured and Boro scrapped and fought for every ball.

And when the opportunity arose, Woodgate’s side continued to trouble the home side going forward. Tavernier was unfortunate when his strike from distance was just inches over the bar with Johnstone again beaten.

Johnstone blocked a Fletcher shot from the narrowest of angles and Tavernier felt he had good claims for a penalty when he went to ground inside the box. Wing went close with a free-kick, but with seven minutes remaining, Pears pulled off another great save to deny Charlie Austin.

Boro’s response? To roar straight down the other end only to see Johnstone deny Marvin Johnson before Coulson was denied by a goal-saving block.

Fletcher put the seal on a well-deserved Boro win to round off the year, as he caught Johnstone off his line from some distance and looped a long range effort over him.