STEVE McLaren’s first visit back to the Riverside ended in a 1-0 defeat, a result which meant Leicester City would be playing Premier League football again next season.
Boro took the lead through Nathaniel Chalobah’s superb second-half effort and made a timely return to keeping clean sheets at home.
Head Coach Aitor Karanka made an enforced change, switching Chalobah for the suspended Dean Whitehead, otherwise it was an unchanged side to the team that beat Brighton last weekend.
Derby County stayed unchanged from their 3-0 drubbing of Charlton Athletic last weekend. England under-21 international Will Hughes was recalled to the bench after a spell on the side lines.
George Friend had Middlesbrough’s first chance of the game, against the run of play. The left-back hit a thunderous shot which was deflected for a corner by Craig Bryson.
Boro were forging chances, without a great deal of the ball. Lee Tomlin slipped a reverse pass into Danny Graham, but the striker blazed over.
The Rams’ top goalscorer was given the freedom of Boro after being slipped through by Jeff Hendrick. However Ben Gibson recovered well to block the shot.
Tomlin continued to be hit-and-miss for the home side, he cleverly worked himself a bit of room inside the area and passed a glorious chance straight to the feet of Lee Grant.
Half-time: Middlesbrough 0 Derby County 0
Derby started the brighter and worked a four-on-four with the Boro backline. The home side stood off Bryson who shot but it was well saved by Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Immediately before being substituted and losing his temper on a water bottle, Tomlin rose the highest from a Grant Leadbitter free kick, but didn’t trouble Grant.
Kenneth Omeruo’s clearance from a Patrick Bamford cross fell into Andre Wisdom’s path, but the on-loan Liverpool full-back’s shot whistled just past the upright.
The game became very open, Graham played in Albert Adomah but the Ghanian couldn’t control the up-and-under and dragged his shot wide.
Boro opened the scoring through Chalobah, in the 69th minute. Emmanuel Ledesma played through the on-loan Chelsea midfielder, who skipped past Wisdom’s challenge and slotted home at the far post.
Derby should have replied with a goal of their own, Will Hughes’ free-kick crept through to the back post where Jake Buxton put it wide from a yard.
Ledesma could have put the icing on a cake with a second, but his long-range shot went into the upper tier of the north stand.
Jeff Hendrick had the visitors final chance to equalise after being given room to shoot just outside of the box, but he put his effort miles over the bar.
Boro host relegation threatened Birmingham City at The Riverside on Tuesday night, looking to make it three wins on the bounce.
Derby travel to the North West to take on Blackpool, looking to consolidate a playoff place, after Leicester were guaranteed a spot in the Premier League next year due to today’s result.
www.tside.co.uk website man of the match: Nathaniel Chalobah – bagged a goal in a very impressive midfield display.
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos; Varga, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Chalobah, Leadbitter (c); Adomah (Main 90′), Tomlin (Ledesma 59′), Williams (Butterfield 79′); Graham
Unused subs: Steele, Kamara, Atkinson, Kitching
Goal: Chalobah (69′)
Derby County (4-4-2): Grant; Wisdom, Bryson, Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick, Russell (Sammon 61′), Keogh (c), Thorne (Naylor 86′); Bamford (Hughes 76′), Martin
Unused subs: Legzdins, Eustace, O’Brien, Whitbread
Attendance: 15,234 (1,108 visitors)