Middlesbrough made it one defeat from 11 games as they continue their sparkling run of form with a thumping 4-0 win over Norwich City.
The win lifts Boro level on points with top of the league Bournemouth who they face at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday in a top of the table clash.
Aitor Karanka made two changes in this game replacing Wildschut and Emilio Nsue with Ryan Fredericks and Albert Adomah who recovered from illness.
Former Boro midfielder Gary O’Neil retained his place in the Norwich team after an impressive debut against Bolton last Friday.
A crowd of 16,468 were at the Riverside to see the Canary mauling after their last meeting was a 1-1 draw in January 2011.
Boro hit the ground the running straight from the off and showed their intentions when Fredericks shot over from 20 yards.
But it didn’t take long for Boro to make their mark as a one-two between Adomah and Kike freed the Ghanian down the flank and his low cross found the head of Bamford to finish well. Cracking start!
The Reds were making good use of the ball and their decision making, mixed with a good level of passing and tempo was spot on.
But the game lulled for another 20 minutes and Norwich looked like they were going to find a way back through with shots from O’Neil and Nathan Redmond coming close.
There was little to watch during this first half until the 33rd minute when George Friend was bundled down in the box and Nigel Miller pointed to the spot.
The resulting penalty was never in doubt as Grant Leadbitter sent John Ruddy the wrong way and send the Boro fans into rapturous celebration.
Kike’s hard work almost paid off he weaved his way into the box only to see his shot blocked by Russell Martin, which was a glorious opportunity.
The game remained cagey but Boro were having more of the ball and they were proving difficult to break down.
The second half picked up from where the game had left off as a slow start could only produce a sailing shot from Cameron Jerome, Norwich’s star striker with eight goals.
Boro started to regain their rythem and Tomlin was showing his class with some neat trickery and vision before Leadbitter fired a shot shortly after that was parried by Ruddy.
Another goal seemed like it was a matter of time and Ruddy was on hand again to tip wide Fredericks shot from 30 yards.
But the East Anglian’s futile resistance was broken when Tomlin’s chipped through ball found the head of Leadbitter who audaciously looped a header over the despondent Ruddy to make it 3-0.
The Smoggies were looking a joy to watch as Boro were in full control and the organisation and shape when Boro didn’t have the ball was terrific.
The performance was rounded off in the 85th minute when Ruddy spilt Leadbitter’s corner to the feet of Wildschut who back heeled through several Norwich defenders to nestle the ball into the back of the net.
Aitor Karanka had mixed emotions after the game and admitted that he wasn’t very pleased with the way the side played in the first half.
He said: “I was very pleased with the result tonight and the way the lads played in the second half, but I wasn’t pleased with the first. We didn’t play the way we normally do.
“I am happy with where we are but we need to keep our feet on the ground and focus on Bournemouth.
“More depth to the squad has helped us but we need to keep working as we are. From the chairman to the kitman, one are one team.”
Norwich manager Neil Adams was saddened by his teams performance and said: “It is the most disappointed I’ve been in charge.
“We got what we deserved. We had good players who didn’t play well on the day.”
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos; Fredericks, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, Leadbitter (c); Adomah (Reach 48′), Bamford (Vossen 74′), Tomlin; Kike (Wildschut 68′)
Norwich City: (4-2-3-1): Ruddy; Whitaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; O’Neil, Tettey (Hooper 45′); Redmond, Howson, Lafferty (Murphy 57′); Jerome (Grabban 77′)
www.tside.co.uk Man of the Match: Grant Leadbitter
Goals: Middlesbrough 4-0 Norwich City
Shots (on target): Middlesbrough – 15 (6) – Norwich City – 6 (1)
Corners: Middlesbrough 12 – 2 Norwich City
Fouls: Middlesbrough 9 – 13 Norwich City
Yellow cards: Middlesbrough – 2 (Leadbitter, Clayton) – 3 Norwich (Martin, Murphy, Jerome)
Referee: Nigel Miller
Middlesbrough: (Mejias, Omeruo, Whitehead, Nsue)
Norwich: (Rudd, Johnson, Miquel, Cuellar)
Dimi Konstanopoulos – 7
Ryan Fredericks – 8
Daniel Ayala – 7
Ben Gibson – 8
George Friend – 8
Adam Clayton – 8
Grant Leadbitter – 9
Albert Adomah – 7
Patrick Bamford – 8
Lee Tomlin – 9
Kike – 8
Jelle Vossen – 7
Yanic Wildschut – 7
Adam Reach – 7