Approaching the first anniversary of Aitor Karanka’s appointment as manager, Middlesbrough moved joint-top of the Championship with Bournemouth last night.
Bournemouth just happen to be the visitors to the Riverside on Saturday and they will find hosts who combine style and persistence with a cutting edge. It was all too much for a Norwich City team still adjusting to life after the Premier League.
A goal from on-loan Patrick Bamford and two from captain Grant Leadbitter – his seventh and eighth in the league – brought a victory that was already comfortable before substitute Yanic Wildschut stabbed in a fourth.
A place in the automatic promotion places is Boro’s – and Norwich’s – ultimate ambition but a measure of Middlesbrough’s progress in Karanka’s 51 weeks in charge can be seen in points: after 16 games last season Boro had 16 points; after 16 now, they have 30.
The one downside was the attendance of less than 17,000, but with results like this, Teesside will surely respond.
Boro entered the game having lost just one of their last 10 in the league and when Bamford saw Albert Adomah’s cross arcing towards him, the 21-year-old peeled away from Michael Turner and angled his body to bury a strong header past John Ruddy.
The second goal came from the penalty spot from Leadbitter, George Friend having been tripped by Norwich captain Russell Martin. There were Canary complaints and referee Nigel Miller did not blow instantly.
Between the goals, Norwich had played with some fluency and the home goalkeeper, Dimi Konstantopoulos, made a sharp, low save to deny former Boro midfielder Gary O’Neil.
Neil Adams introduced £5m Gary Hooper at half-time but this coincided with the home side really asserting themselves. With Lee Tomlin prominent, Leadbitter and Ryan Fredericks were both close with long-range shots before, in the 69th minute, Leadbitter ran onto Bamford’s cute chip and flighted a header over Ruddy.
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos; Fredericks, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, Leadbitter; Bamford (Vossen, 75), Tomlin, Adomah (Reach, 49); Kike (Wildschut, 68). Subs not used: Mejias, Nsue, Omeruo, Whitehead.
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; Tettey (Hooper, h-t), O’Neil; Redmond, Howson, Lafferty (Murphy, 57); Jerome (Grabban, 78). Subs not used: Rudd, Cuellar, Johnson, Miquel.
Referee: N Miller (Durham).Reuse content