Two superb strikes lit up the Riverside as Neil Warnock’s Boro returned to winning ways against in-form Sheffield United.

Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair scored their first goals of the season during the first half as Boro blew the Blades away with a clinical display in front of goal.

Warnock had made two changes from the side which lost to Reading a few days ago, Watmore and Sol Bamba coming into the team, and the boss was rewarded with the best performance so far this season.

Boro looked strong and organised at the back, were dominant in midfield, pressed high and were clinical in the opposition third.

Joe Lumley was the first of the goalkeepers to be called into action when Iliman Ndiaye warmed his gloves before a Ben Davies mistake almost allowed Matt Crooks in on goal only for the on-loan defender to recovered well with a vital challenge.

Boro were in front on 10 minutes when Bamba fed Marc Bola and after some neat interplay with Matt Crooks, Watmore delivered a finishing touch of the highest order to leave Robin Olsen with no chance.

Boro looked as dangerous as they have done all season on the front foot. Watmore headed wide after good work by Andraz Sporar and Marcus Tavernier had Robin Olsen scrambling across his goal for a shot which went just wide.

The visitors were useful with the ball. Ndiaya rattled the post after a ball forward from George Baldock, amid suspicions of handball, but Boro were well organised and resolute.

Baldock was involved at the other end with a last-ditch tackle to deny Tavernier after good work by McNair and Sporar, and the Slovenian international was involved again when Crooks showed a delightful touch to tee up McNair who smashed the ball home.

It was just rewards for Boro and the two goals were enough to win the game.

The impressive Bamba did clear a goal-bound shot from Ben Osborn and Lumley made a fantastic save to deny David McGoldrick, while Olsen also had to react well to pull off a double save to deny Sporar and Tavernier.

Boro: Lumley, Fry, Tavernier, Payero, Sporar (Ikpeazu 72), Watmore (Olusanya 78), Peltier, Howson, McNair, Crooks, Bola, Bamba.

Subs: Daniels, Hall, Payero, Lea Siliki, Jones.

Sheffield United: Olsen, Baldock, Stevens (Norrington-Davies 68), Fleck, Sharp, Egan, Norwood (McGoldrick 46), Davies, Osborn, Gibbs-White, Ndiaye (Hourihane 77).

Subs: Foderingham, Basham, Brewster, McBurnie.

Referee: James Linington

Attendance: 19,390 (1,591 Sheffield United)