LATEST CHALLENGE: Middlesbrough and Charlton face-off in a match that could of seen Boro go top of the league
The Riverside fortress failed to break its stronghold as Middlesbrough extend their unbeaten run to 12 games with a 3-1 win over Charlton Athletic.
Patrick Bamford opening the scoring in the first seven minutes until the Addicks provided a scare with a beautifully whipped goal from Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Middlesbrough responded in the second half with a tap in from Jelle Vossen and a Scholes-esque goal from Lee Tomlin.
The victory means the Smoggies still remain in third place behind Bournemouth and Derby County but opened up a four point gap between themselves and fourth-placed Brentford.
Middlesbrough made no changes to the team for the first time in 44 games keeping the same team he played away at Brentford.
Middlesbrough loanee Tomas Kalas was fit to return after missing the last two games with a calf injury and was on the bench while Daniel Ayala was serving the second game of a two match suspension.
Charlton Athletic were set to hand debuts to Christophe Lepoint and Roger Johnson who were purchased in the January transfer window while Johnnie Jackson returned from a calf strain.
The meeting between to the two teams earlier in the season ended in a goalless draw at the Valley but Boro are unbeaten in nine games against Charlton, winning six.
Middlesbrough were unbeaten in 11 home games while Charlton had not won any of their last five away games, failing to score in four of them.
The opening exchanges saw some rusty defending from Middlesbrough as Yoni Buyens dragged a shot just wide after a defensive mix-up.
But it didn’t take long for Boro to quash any glimmer of hope for Charlton when Grant Leadbitter’s corner was met by the head of Patrick Bamford (6′) who glanced into the bottom right corner for his 11th goal of the season.
Leadbitter then provided his own flash of brilliance when he flicked the ball through two defenders but his low drive was deflected wide for a corner.
The game then lulled for the next 20 minutes as both teams struggled to make any clear cut chances while Boro had the majority of possession.
Former Boro loanee Milos Veljkovic, recently signed for Charlton on loan, had to be substituted after a nasty looking shoulder injury forced him to leave the field in tears.
In the 37th minute, Middlesbrough gave away the ball cheaply and Buyens fortunate touch fell to Gundmundsson (37′) who fired into the top corner from 20 yards.
The game was looking very even but Jelle Vossen was proving to be a constant threat going forward, linking well with Lee Tomlin.
However, Middlesbrough frustratingly found themselves level at half-time and would be looking to improve after the interval as they have in recent games.
Aitor Karanka will have demanded better from his players in the second half and he got an immediate response from his team.
January’s Championship Player of the Month, Tomlin, had his shot blocked on the edge of the box which kindly fell to him. He unselfishly squared to Vossen (48′) who fired into an open net to lift the Riverside crowd.
Bamford was presented with a glorious chance to double his tally but he could not adjust his feet in the box and Tal Ben Haim recovered well with a strong challenge.
Boro failed to create many more clear cut chances what was looking like an unconvincing performance. The back four looked very steady in the second half with Ben Gibson leading by example.
Vossen was really in mood for Boro today as he was given time to chest the ball down, play a one-two with Tomlin but his low drive was eventually blocked.
In spells they were perhaps trying to be a bit too clever on the ball while another goal for the Boro would of killed the game off.
And the fans didn’t have to wait much longer with a beautifully crafted goal.
BEAUTY: Lee Tomline celebrates his belter as the Riverside crowd jump for joy
Leadbitter again from the corner picked out Tomlin (87′) who met the ball with a low volley from the edge of the box into the bottom corner leaving Marko Dmitrovic with no chance.
After that, the ‘We are going up!’ chants from the Middlesbrough fans echoed around the stadium.
The final whistle blew and in an unconvincing win for Boro, grinding out three points when you don’t play well is the mark of a winner in football. UTB!
After the game, Middlesbrough Head Coach Aitor Karanka insisted just how important every game and that his team could of been the masters of their own downfall.
He said: “It was very important to win especially as it wasn’t a great performance in the first half.
“If you score early, then you think the job is done. I told the lads at half time that the job was not done.
“I think the gap will start to widen at the top of the Championship and with the top teams, which is why every win is important.”
Charlton manager Guy Luzon admitted that Middlesbrough have the quality to be in the Premier League but the result did not reflect the game.
He said: “I felt we did not deserve to lose the game 3-1 but in the end we were not good enough in the game.
“Middlesbrough have the quality to be playing the Premier League next year because they are a very good side.”
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos (GK); Fredericks, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, Leadbitter (C); Bamford (Forshaw 72′), Tomlin, Adomah (Reach 72′); Vossen (Kike 88′)
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Dmitrovic (GK); Solly, Fox, Ben Haim, Onyewu; Gundmundsonn, Veljkovic (Jackson 32′), Buyens (Lepoint 85′), Cousins; Watt, Church (Vetokele 58′)
Unused Subs (Middlesbrough): Mejais (GK), Woodgate, Kalas, Whitehead
Unused Subs (Charlton Athletic): Etheridge (GK), Wilson, Gomez, Bikey
Middlesbrough 3-1 Charlton Athletic
Possession: Middlesbrough 64% – 36% Charlton Athletic
Shots (on target): Middlesbrough 18 (8) – 10 (2) Charlton Athletic
Corners: Middlesbrough 10 – 3 Charlton Athletic
Fouls: Middlesbrough 12 – 8 Charlton Athletic
Yellow Cards: Middlesbrough 1 (Forshaw) – 0 Charlton Athletic
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Player Ratings 0-10
Tside Man of the Match – Ben Gibson
Dimi Konstantopoulos – 7 – As confident and commanding as usual but could do nothing about Charlton’s goal
Ryan Fredericks – 7 – After a rusty return at Brentford, Fredericks was back to his best
Kenneth Omeruo – 6 – Shaky and unreliable at times but handled the majority of challenges well
Ben Gibson – 9 – Middlesbrough’s unsung hero. Outstanding performance both composed and commanding
George Friend – 7 – Reliable as always and was more of a threat going forward than in recent weeks
Adam Clayton – 7 – Clayton’s need to add more goals but is a vital addition to this Middlesbrough team
Grant Leadbitter – 8 – Two assists and the starting point of nearly every Boro attack. Brilliant yet again
Albert Adomah – 6 – Had little influence on the game but provided good balance to the Boro attack
Lee Tomlin – 8 – Proving his worth to the team! A beauty goal and showed creative skill going forward
Patrick Bamford – 8 – Brilliantly finished header and looks like an accomplished figure in this team
Jelle Vossen – 8 – The Belgian was hungry! A constant threat and was a nightmare for Charlton’s defence.
Subs: Forshaw (6), Reach (5), Kike (n/a)