Middlesbrough may not have had a manager on the touchline yesterday, but after an impressively thorough victory over a Derby County side that took them almost to the top of the Championship, Aitor Karanka’s absence was replaced by exuberant celebration.
Suspended for one game from the bench due to his incandescent response to Blackburn’s injury-time equaliser in the last home game here, Karanka watched from the stands and saw his team out-muscle and out-manoeuvre the previous leaders.
“This is my best afternoon at the club,” Karanka said. “My worst was the last game in the last minute. We have beaten the best team in the League. It could have been more. I want to dedicate this to my staff.”
Those staff, and Boro’s players, greeted the three points as if they held great significance. Given that the Championship season is yet to reach the halfway stage and Derby played with 10 men for half an hour following Ryan Shotton’s dismissal, joy must be kept in context. But Boro were entitled to be pleased .
All over the park, from the moment midfield tackles gave Boro the ball and momentum – and from there a pass to Patrick Bamford – the hosts were better than the visitors. From Bamford the ball went to Adam Reach who made for the byline and cut a low cross back.
Bamford, with good movement that eluded Derby’s defence, met the cross with a left-foot first-time shot that beat Lee Grant and rolled in off the far post. That was the sixth minute and Derby were destabilised.
Derby had much of the ball in the first half, but were prone to losing it. The carelessness bothered Steve McClaren who made two changes at half-time but then saw Shotton shown a straight red just after the hour.
Shotton tripped Bamford and captain Grant Leadbitter stepped up to convert a sixth penalty of the season. Leadbitter set the Boro tone with his harrying and passing; Derby had no-one comparable in midfield. Jeff Hendrick had an off day and for Derby this was a third defeat in four on their travels. As McClaren said: “In our last eight we’ve won four and lost four and that inconsistency isn’t going to get us where we want to go.”
Derby now meet Chelsea in the League Cup on Tuesday; Boro go to Ipswich next Saturday. They do so with confidence and with 21-year-old Bamford growing as a Championship striker.
On loan from Chelsea, Bamford was at Derby last season, so they knew what to expect. Bamford now has five goals in his last six matches. “I know Jose likes him,” Karanka said of Mourinho, and Bamford. You could see why.
Middlesbrough: (4-4-2) Konstantopoulos; Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Adomah, Clayton, Leadbitter, Reach; Vossen (Wildschut, 78) Bamford (Kike, 74).
Derby County: (4-1-2-3) Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth; Mascarell (Best, h-t); Hendrick (Hughes, 61) Bryson; Russell, Martin, Dawkins (Ibe, h-t).
Referee: Roger East
Man of the match: Leadbitter (Middlesbrough)
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content