At the fifth attempt, Steve McClaren finally has a win on the board in the management game. Not that Middlesbrough's second round Worthington Cup victory will be remembered by many.
There was barely a crowd inside the Riverside Stadium last night – just 3,918, the lowest attendance for a first-team fixture in the ground's six-year history. Still, it was a night that three members of McClaren's team will not forget – David Murphy, Szilard Nemeth and Mark Wilson scoring the goals that saw off a spirited Northampton side.
All three were making Boro bows of sorts. Murphy, a 17-year-old left-back, and Wilson, a £1.5m midfielder, were making their first appearances for Middlesbrough while Nemeth – a £3m signing from Inter Bratislava – was making his first start for the club.
Not that the new look Boro made the best of starts, Richard Hope flashing a header inches over Mark Schwarzer's crossbar with less than a minute gone. Nemeth headed wide from close range in the 13th minute but it was Northampton who carried the greater threat for most of the first half.
They might have taken the lead in the 28th minute but Schwarzer produced a fine reflex save to keep out a point-blank volley by Sam Parkin. The chance came courtesy of Jamie Forrester, once of Auxerre and Leeds, who also clipped a free-kick narrowly over Schwarzer's bar from a range of 20 yards.
There were a couple of uncomfortable moments for the Cobblers before the break, though. Dean Windass was responsible for them both – first a header, then a shot on the turn – though the agile Adam Sollitt saved his side on each occasion.
It was a sign of what was to come after the break. Five minutes in to the second half, Sollitt came to the rescue again, stooping to gather a long-range drive by the increasingly impressive Wilson, and ultimately it came as little surprise when Middlesbrough took the lead. They did so in the 54th minute, Carlos Marinelli crossing from wide on the right and Murphy rising to plant a firm header past the diving Sollitt.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0, Nemeth beating Sollitt with a shot on the turn – prompted by a Murphy ball from the left. Parkin revived hopes of an upset in the 78th minute, volleying in Forrester's left-wing cross, but when Wilson's long range shot squirmed through Sollitt's hands with five minutes remaining the tie was finally beyond Northampton's grasp.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Stockdale, Ehiogu, Gavin, Murphy (Cooper, 75); Marinelli, Wilson, Mustoe (Job, 70), Johnston (Ricard, 75); Windass, Nemeth. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Greening,.
Northampton Town (4-4-2): Sollitt; Dempsey, Evatt (Asamoah, ht; Thompson, 83), Hope, Spedding; McGregor (Wolleaston, 70) Hunt, Hunter, Hargreaves; Forrester, Parkin. Substitutes not used: Gabbiadini, Bunn (gk).
Referee: P Richards (Preston).Reuse content