The Sunday Times

At the end of a week that began with Neil Warnock receiving his first Covid-19 vaccine, the Middlesbrough manager’s promotion hopes were given a timely shot in the arm at the Madejski Stadium.

The 72-year-old saw his team step up their pursuit of a play-off place with an impressive win over Reading thanks to first-half goals from Ashley Fletcher and Marc Bola.

It capped quite a week for Warnock, whose side bounced back from defeat by lowly Derby County to beat Huddersfield Town at the Riverside. This was a real statement of intent against promotion rivals.

“That has to go down as the best display since I came to Boro so I’m really chuffed,” said Warnock, who is chasing his ninth promotion.

“We were totally different from the side that lost at Derby. The lads did everything we asked of them and more. I really enjoyed watching what was a really good performance against a good side. We were right in the mood and tactically very good.”

Gazette/Teesside Live

How things can change in a week.

Last Saturday, after the disappointing defeat at Derby, Neil Warnock was left to dwell on a poor showing and a growing injury list as his Boro side's season was threatening to peter out.

Seven days and six points later, Boro look to be back on track and the gap to the top six is now just three points after what the manager described as a "complete performance" in the 2-0 win at Reading.

Ashley Fletcher and Marc Bola got the goals in a pivotal victory over the promotion chasing rivals, and Boro will now welcome Bristol City and Cardiff to the Riverside with renewed optimism.

After the win at the Madejski Stadium, Warnock gathered his players in a huddle to celebrate. After the Derby defeat, the mood was completely different, but the boss set about lifting the squad with a rallying cry.

"I told the lads, I'm 72, I don't need to be here, I don't want to be here to be average and I don't want you to be average, I want you to lift yourselves now," revealed Warnock.

"We've got 18 games left or whatever it was at the time. I want us to be involved. We might not make it but let's have a try, let's be positive

"We're at a great club, great facilities, great owner - we can't wish for any more. Let's have a go.

"You have to enjoy the moment and that's what I'm doing."

Northern Echo

MIDDLESBROUGH'S promotion hopes received a major boost as they beat Reading 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium.

Boro, chasing a play-off spot, struck twice midway through the first half, with decisive finishes from Ashley Fletcher and defender Marc Bola.

Although Reading enjoyed the greater share of possession in the second half, the visitors remained strong at the back and held on comfortably...

...Boro appeared increasingly under pressure but, in the space of seven minutes, they found themselves 2-0 ahead.

Fletcher broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute, tucking home his second goal in as many matches from close range after Dael Fry’s precise onward header.

Ovie Ejaria sent a speculative effort just wide as Reading searched for a quick equaliser.

But they were breached again in the 29th minute, when left-back Bola – after smart work by Sam Morsy – hammered home a fine first goal of the season from 20 yards.

Paddy McNair could have made it 3-0 just before the interval but his low attempt was well saved by home goalkeeper Rafael.

BBC

Middlesbrough kept up their pursuit of a Championship play-off place as they condemned Reading to a third consecutive home defeat.

Boro took the lead midway through the first half when Dael Fry headed on for Ashley Fletcher to slot home.

The hosts took just seven minutes to double their advantage as Marc Bola fired home from outside the box.

Visiting goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli made a fine save to deny Michael Morrison late on as Boro held on for all three points.

The result means Boro move within three points of the play-off places in eighth, level on points with seventh-placed Cardiff, who beat Preston.

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