Middlesbrough remain in fourth place in the Championship after a 2-0 win at The Riverside against Huddersfield thanks to two goals from Lee Tomlin.
It seems that four is a recurring theme as the win means that Boro are now four points from the Championship summit and four points in the play-off places.
Pulses were racing at the Riverside as Middlesbrough dominated the first half only to see Huddersfield muster up a revival after Tomlin opened the scoring.
Huddersfield were left frustrated by not coming away with at least a point after their efforts were constantly thwarted by an excellent Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Going into the game, Middlesbrough had only lost one of the last 13 games, a 2-0 away defeat to promotion chasing Ipswich and were unbeaten in nine home games, winning five.
Huddersfield were undergoing a resurgence after a bad run of results and were unbeaten in the last three games. Although they hadn’t won any of the last seven away games.
The last time these two sides met was back in September at the John Smith’s stadium when Middlesbrough won 2-1 and witnessed a memorable cracker from captain Grant Leadbitter.
The omens favoured Middlesbrough as the Terriers had only won one of the last 11 meetings between the two teams.
Middlesbrough made three changes to the starting line-up as Kike started up front at the expense of Jelle Vossen, Lee Tomlin replaced Adam Reach and Adam Clayton returned from suspension to replace Dean Whitehead.
It didn’t take Middlesbrough long to dictate the tempo of the game as Kike’s smart turn and strike from the edge of the box rattled the post inside five minutes.
It was all Middlesbrough for the remainder of the half as Patrick Bamford missed a glorious chance to earn his team a goal to the good as he glanced a header wide from a corner.
Middlesbrough had more of the ball but Huddersfield were being very resilient at the back restricting them from playing free flowing football and leaving no gaps.
Lee Tomlin had a big chance to slip in Albert Adomah but a sloppy ball left the fans frustrated. While Huddersfield were forced into a sub as injury prone James Vaughn was replaced by Oscar Gobern.
Huddersfield had no chances and the first half finished with Adam Clayton’s speculative volley just dipping over the bar.
The Terriers made a second chance just before kick off as Boro boy Jonathan Hogg was replaced by the fiery Lee Peltier.
Middlesbrough’s frustrated mounted as Tomlin again wasted a good opportunity to play in Bamford or Kike but saw his shot sail over the bar.
The game became tempered when Nahki Wells and Daniel Ayala had an off the ball tussle which saw arguments erupt on the pitch and in the technical area.
Terriers manager Chris Powell and Middlesbrough assistant manager Steve Agnew had a few choice words to share to each other by the looks of it.
Huddersfield’s first threat came through former Boro man Jacob Butterfield when his long range effort skimmed just wide of the post.
Middlesbrough’s efforts paid dividends in the 61st minute when Kike found Tomlin in space, he turned and rifled the ball past Alex Smithies from the edge of the box (Tomlin 61′).
It was Huddersfield who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck as Butterfield threatened again from distance as Dimi produced a good save.
The Riverside crowd were left perplexed at Middlesbrough’s next chance when Kike killed the ball on his chest from 8 yards, but managed to hook the ball wide when the goal was gaping.
Huddersfield had a good shout for handball when Ayala blocked a cross that looked like it may have hit his knee first and deflected into his hand.
Wells was proving to be a thorn in Middlesbrough’s side when he side stepped Clayton and bent a left-footed shot off the post.
Konstantopoulos was keeping Boro in the game and produced a magnificent save as Wells blasted from point blank range only to see the Greek giant parry away his effort.
The home crowd were on edge as Huddersfield through the gauntlet as Boro in hope of an equaliser, but Boro’s keeper and defence were proving their worth.
Terriers keeper Smithies went forward for a stoppage time corner but his mistake proved very costly when Huddersfield decided to take a short corner.
Leadbitter blocked the cross, Tomlin advanced 50 yards with the ball and slotted home into an empty net to ease the pressure (Tomlin 90+4). Shortly after, the full time whistle blew and Boro were home and dry.
Middlesbrough Head Coach Aitor Karanka praised his side after a nervy finish to the game against Huddersfield and admitted that is was a must win game for his team.
He said: “We had to win the game today and the first half was difficult to understand, because we had so many chances. I am sure on Tuesday (against Cardiff), we will be more relaxed in front of goal.
“It is a very important time in the season because you are at the point now where the positions are more fixed. It was good to win considering everyone around us won today.”
Karanka praised the impact of Lee Tomlin’s goals as he added: “Tomlin is the type of player who when he has the ball, something will happen.
Huddersfield manager Chris Powell was left frustrated by the result. He said: “It was tough to take. Once the first goal went in, the game opened up and we took it to Middlesbrough.
“Our response was excellent and we kept ourselves in the game. On another day we might have got a point.”
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos (GK); Kalas, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter (C), Clayton; Bamford (Reach 73′), Adomah, Tomlin; Kike (Vossen 84′)
Unused Subs: Mejias, Ledesma, Husband, Whitehead, Omeruo
Huddersfield (4-4-2): Smithies (GK); Smith, Hudson, Lynch, Robinson; Hogg, Coady, Butterfield, Scannell; Vaughn (Gobern 24′), Wells
Unused subs: Allinson, Dixon, Billing, Majewski
Possession: Middlesbrough 59% – 41% Huddersfield Town
Shots (on target): Middlesbrough 15 (3) – 13 (3) Huddersfield Town
Corners: Middlesbrough 4 – 9 Huddersfield Town
Fouls: Middlesbrough 10 – 14 Huddersfield Town
Yellow Cards: Middlesbrough 3 (Gibson 29′, Tomlin 89′, Friend 86′) – 1 (Peltier 81′) Huddersfield Town
Referee: Peter Bankes
www.tside.co.uk Man of the Match: Dimi Konstantopoulos
Dimi Konstantopoulos – 8/10 – Pulled off some vital saves in the latter stages of the game. MOM
Tomas Kalas – 7/10 – Sturdy performance at the back on his home debut and did well going forward.
Daniel Ayala – 7/10 – Rock at the back as always, showed presence when Boro were under pressure.
Ben Gibson – 8/10 – Cool and composed on the ball at the back for someone still very young in their career.
George Friend – 6/10 – Not one of his best days but still defended well when called upon.
Adam Clayton – 7/10 – Proved his worth against his old team and has become a pivotal role in the middle.
Grant Leadbitter – 7/10 – Captain fantastic as always. Showed he still has bite when the game got tempered.
Albert Adomah – 7/10 – Final delivery needs improving but he’s always a problem for defenders.
Patrick Bamford – 7/10 – A quiet day for him but caused Huddersfield a lot of problems with his movement.
Lee Tomlin – 8/10 – Two important goals and his ability on the ball showed how important he is to Boro.
Kike – 6/10 – Furstrating day again for him. Goalless game but worked hard for the team to create chances.
Subs: Adam Reach (6/10), Jelle Vossen (5/10)