Neil Warnock makes instant impact as Middlesbrough beat Stoke (Observer)

Neil Warnock had the immediate effect Steve Gibson hoped for when Middlesbrough’s owner sacked Jonathan Woodgate on Tuesday and replaced him with a 71-year-old who is correctly billed as a Championship specialist. Warnock’s expertise was hired to try to avert relegation and, after this convincing win over a muted Stoke, Boro are two points clear of danger with seven matches left.

Neil Warnock wins on Boro bow (Sky Sports)

Neil Warnock enjoyed a perfect return to management as Middlesbrough swept aside fellow Sky Bet Championship strugglers Stoke 2-0

The evergreen Warnock - rapidly approaching 1,500 games as a manager - watched on as a goal in each half helped lift Boro above the Potters in the table and eased them two points clear of the drop zone.

A second win in 13 games was thoroughly deserved in the first match since Jonathan Woodgate's sacking, while Stoke are now just a single point above the bottom three.

Warnock will have been delighted with his first 45 minutes at the Boro helm as his latest team deservedly led at the break at the bet365 Stadium.

Neil Warnock proves he still has the Midas touch  (Mail On Sunday)

In the midst of an important relegation battle, Neil Warnock showed he still has the Midas touch aged 71 and now at his seventeenth different club.

The Marmite manager who quipped that empty stadiums mean nobody can boo him made six changes for his first game in charge of Middlesbrough.

Typically, two of his recalls combined for the first goal before the points were wrapped up by substitute Marcus Tavernier – just a minute after the new gaffer had sent him on.

Middlesbrough begin Warnock era with a win (BBC)

The formation, switched to a 4-4-2 for large parts, gave Boro balance with wingers providing delivery to two forwards - something craved by Boro fans after several seasons of one central striker.

It was a switch that seemed to energise Fletcher, who pulled defenders about with movement, seized countless possession on the break and added a first goal since early February.

As for 71-year-old Warnock, he was vocal from his touchline position - occasionally provoking the attentions of the fourth official - but mostly watched intently with his hands clasped behind his back.

Just a clap of the hands greeted each goal, while at the final whistle there were no wild celebrations. This is just the beginning of the job to avoid the drop.

Tell-tale signs of Neil Warnock's tactical template taking root (Gazette Live)

A Tell-tale signs of Neil Warnock's tactical template taking root at Middlesbrough

The first goal of the Neil Warnock era was a header from a free-kick out wide. Textbook.

But there a few other tell-tale signs that the manager's tactical DNA has started to emerge too.

It was a rock solid, spirited and well drilled display by a team busting a gut for the full 90 minutes.

They were organised throughout. They pressed high. They scrapped for every ball. They scored. Twice!

And they showed some shrewd game management as they dug deep to keep a clean sheet late on.

And players were put into their best positions as layers of complication were peeled away.

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