Report from the Riverside...
Boro blitzed past Millwall on an afternoon that reaped three first-half goals and ultimately three points.
Neil Warnock made three changes from the midweek defeat to Preston, replacing the injured Jonny Howson with Marcus Tavernier in midfield, Anfernee Dijksteel returning from his own lay-off to start at right-back, and Chuba Akpom coming in for Britt Assombalonga up top.
That meant Paddy McNair wore the captain’s armband, rainbow-coloured to mark the club’s Rainbow Laces day and support for LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, for the first time as a Boro player.
Determined to find a reaction to back-to-back disappointments on the road, Boro flew out of the blocks at the Riverside.
And the man who scored Boro’s last goal here against Swansea City was the one to break the deadlock again. A smart pass from George Saville released Marvin Johnson on Boro’s left, who cut across and left Duncan Watmore with a simple finish.
Boro were buoyed by the breakthrough, and within minutes, it was two. This time Marcus Tavernier did the damage, working his way into a dangerous area and unleashing an unstoppable left-footed rocket beyond Bartosz Bialkowski into the bottom corner.
There was barely time to take a breath before Boro’s third. Former Lions man Saville, dogged in midfield throughout, scuffed a shot fortuitously into the path of Watmore, but credit must go to the forward for his reactions to control and finish coolly.
Boro were well in the mood, and captain McNair then nearly made it four from a free-kick, his vicious strike tipped over by Bialkowski.
After that, a string of chances came for Akpom, who was tireless in leading the line. First the striker glanced over from a crossed Johnson free-kick, then he lifted one over having been slipped through by Tavernier.
Into the second half, and the former Arsenal man saw a lofted finish that was goal-bound but for the fingertips of Bialkoswki, then was unlucky not to win a penalty having been sent crashing to the ground as he waited to pull the trigger again.
Millwall became increasingly direct, with both Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Matt Smith introduced to the fray. It was the latter who saw the visitors’ best chance when he volleyed wide, then another sub Ben Thompson produced a really smart stop from Marcus Bettinelli.
Neil Warnock took the opportunity to bring on plenty of fresh legs of his own and it was one of them, Britt Assombalonga, who saw another opportunity when he outmuscled Jake Cooper but saw his shot blocked.
That was to be the final chance as Boro closed out a second consecutive home win, a promising platform ahead of the visit of Luton Town in midweek.