Inspired by the invention that lies within Lee Tomlin, Middlesbrough rediscovered their sure footing after a couple of awkward results to stay in an automatic promotion place. Tomlin’s exquisite first-half pass fooled Bolton’s defence and was worthy of that jokey nickname of his – the Dennis Bergkamp of the Championship. It enabled Albert Adomah to score the only goal.
But with Boro incapable of adding to that – Tomlin hit the bar with a free-kick in the 89th minute after Patrick Bamford had squandered two great chances – what should have been convincing became nervy.
Bolton substitute Zach Clough and Liam Feeney gave the Riverside some late anxiety, but Boro held on. For Bolton, it meant a fourth loss in their last six league matches and their situation is not comfortable.
It took Boro the first half-hour to find a truly threatening groove but, along with Grant Leadbitter, Tomlin’s creative influence grew. The two began to connect, Boro began to flow.
It was Leadbitter’s cute pass which set up Bamford for the first shot on target – saved by Ben Amos on 30 minutes; it was Tomlin’s brilliant, disguised delivery that led to Adomah scoring.
In the centre circle and looking to sweep a high ball out to the flank, Tomlin instead drilled a low 30-yard pass to Adomah who was between Bolton’s two central defenders. They were split and, as Amos came out, Adomah’s task was comparatively simple. Tomlin’s pass had done the hard work.
Neil Lennon had made six changes from Bolton’s 4-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest – three of them enforced, three not. But any improvement was difficult to identify and it should have been 2-0 just before the interval.
After Adam Reach had made progress down Boro’s left, a goalmouth scramble saw first Tomlin, then Adomah set to score. Eventually the ball ran to Bamford but from five yards he poked the ball over.
Nine minutes into the second half there were more home groans as Bamford missed again when teed up by George Friend, but he scooped his shot wide.
From Bolton’s first corner, in the 61st minute, Eidur Gudjohnsen almost headed one in.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Konstantopoulos; Fredericks, Kalas, Gibson, Friend; Adomah, Clayton, Leadbitter, Reach (Forshaw, 76); Bamford (Kike, 76), Tomlin. Substitutes not used Whitehead, Carayol, Omeruo, Wildschut, Mejias Osorio (gk).
Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1) Amos; Vela, Dervite, Wheater, Moxey; Danns, Bannon; Janko (Le Fondre, 83), Gudjohnsen (Clough, 71), Feeney; Heskey. Substitutes not used Twardzik, Fitzsimons (gk), Threlkeld, Slavchev, Walker.
Referee A Madley (West Yorkshire).Reuse content