Summer signings Uche Ikpeazu and Matt Crooks celebrated the return of fans to the Riverside by scoring their first Boro goals to secure the win against Bristol City.
The duo both made impressive debuts on an afternoon when Teesside came together as fans returned to the Riverside properly for the first time in 530 days.
The Riverside was rocking with the returning fans creating arguably the best atmosphere since the visit of Brighton back in 2016 for a promotion party, and the stage was set for Neil Warnock’s men against a team who have enjoyed plenty of success on Teesside in recent seasons.
It was Warnock’s first taste of Boro fans on home soil since taking over as manager 14 months ago and his side responded to the terrific vocal backing and were far and away the better team for the biggest part of the contest.
Making his full debut on home soil, Isaiah Jones was a real threat at times and it was his early cross that led to Dan Bentley denying another home debutant, Crooks, during the opening exchanges.
Crooks was another who was impressing and when he did well to create an opportunity, Djed Spence couldn’t quite get his header on target. Crooks was again involved when the hard working Ikpeazu turned well before shooting just wide.
The Riverside erupted after 38 minutes, though, when Jones again did well down the flank and his low cross skidded off the boot of Spence and straight into the path of Ikpeazu who made no mistake in converting from close range.
City had been completely nullified during the first half, and a couple of early second half chances could have seen Boro out of sight before the hour-mark.
The lively Jones was denied by Bentley after cutting in from the flank to work himself the opening and Ikpeazu failed to find the target after a Jones cross. Jones and Ikpeazu also combined to release Spence, who couldn’t beat Bentley in the City goal.
It wasn’t until the hour that the visitors had a decent opportunity when Kasey Palmer should have done better when presented with a free strike at the Boro goal. Yet moments later they were level. Matty James sent in a free-kick from the Bristol right and Andy King had the freedom of the Boro penalty area as he headed the ball home.
Boro were back in front within 10 minutes, though. Paddy McNair swung in a free-kick from deep, Ikpeazu got up well to head on, and Crooks arrived to apply the finishing touch to send the Riverside into raptures for a second time.
The goal proved to be Ikpeazu’s final involvement with Argentine Olympic international Martin Payero replacing him to make his own home debut.
As the clock ticked down another opportunity presented itself after Jones seized on a mis-placed, but he opted to shoot on sight and Bentley was equal to the effort.
The visitors had chances of their own in stoppage time, Andreas Weinmann heading over the bar after making a good run towards the far post and James shooting wide from inside the box, but the returning fans were able to celebrate once again when the final whistle went to signal a first Boro win of the season.
Boro: Lumley, Dijksteel, Hall, Fry, Ikpeazu (Payero 72), Howson, McNair, Crooks, Bola, Spence, Jones (Bamba 90). Subs: Daniels, Morsy, Peltier, Sivi, Coburn.
Bristol City: Bentley, Dasilva, Atkinson, James, Martin, King, Weimann, Baker, Vyner (Kalas 79), Scott (Janneh 73), Palmer (Wells 58). Subs: O’Leary, Simpson, Bakinson, Massengo.
Ref: Oliver Langford
Att: 22,004 (430 Bristol City fans)