A HOME defeat to Hull City in the FA Cup third round means Middlesbrough can now, as the old cliche goes, very much concentrate on the league.
Boro went down 2-0 at the Riverside Stadium as Hull relied on two out-of-favour strikers to see them into the fourth round with Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz on target.
For Boro’s Spanish boss Aitor Karanka, the result leaves his side focusing solely on the Championship.
His close relationship with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who he worked as assistant to at Real Madrid, means he has been tipped to raid the club’s youth ranks for loan signings.
Nothing concrete has been confirmed yet, but he does expect Nigerian defender Kenneth Omeruo to sign soon.
“Jose and I are friends, so always since I have arrived here it has been talked about. I said to him ‘listen, can I take Michael Essien’. Maybe not, but me and the club are working to take players,” he said.
“I am happy (Omeruo) will come here to help us. I think that he will come until the end of the season.”
The first few minutes saw Hull begin brightly, Stephen Quinn keen to get on the ball in his first appearance in almost two months due to hamstring trouble and Gedo looking to test Jozsef Varga down the Middlesbrough left.
It took them little time to find the net, with Boyd the driving force.
The Scot hassled Emmanuel Ledesma as he lingered on the ball 10 yards outside his own box, winning possession and squaring to David Meyler, whose hopeful shot took a kind deflection and bobbled dangerously behind the defence.
That left debutant goalkeeper – and former Hartlepool Utd stopper – Dimi Konstantopoulos and McLean challenging to meet the loose ball and the striker won, poking into the top corner from close range.
It was a belated first of the season for McLean who was loaned for seven games to Birmingham, ending a drought that stretched back to February, when he netted against Boro during a loan stint at Ipswich.
Meyler went down in some pain as his team-mates celebrated, a result of a collision with George Friend, but Hull’s concerns were allayed when he returned to the pitch after a short break.
The goal did little to alter the flow, with Hull enjoying the bulk of possession without seriously threatening a second.
Boro, meanwhile, were struggling to get lone striker Curtis Main in the game – with moves too often breaking down before play reached him.
A mistake almost opened the door for Hull in the 33rd minute, Rhys Williams’ ill-conceived back-pass heading straight to McLean, but Ben Gibson made a fine covering challenge at the edge of the crucial moment.
The home side threatened another self-inflicted wound soon after when Williams appeared to push Gedo inside the box, but referee Kevin Friend saw nothing untoward.
Half-time saw Boro boss Karanka make two changes, replacing Ledesma and the anonymous Luke Williams with Albert Adomah and Lukas Jutkiewicz.
They certainly came out after the break looking sharper and Friend signalled his side’s intent inside a couple of minutes when he charged Meyler off the ball and struck a powerful shot wide of the near post.
Ten minutes later, Marvin Emnes charged at the Hull defence and drilled a teasing ball low across goal.
A touch from Main would have been enough to turn it home but he was a yard short.
Adomah retrieved it on the byline and found Dean Whitehead, but with a full sight of goal he was both high and wide.
The Boro resistance was cut short on the hour when Proschwitz put the finishing touch on a neat counter down the right wing.
Liam Rosenior and Paul McShane got things going with some tidy interplay that freed up Boyd to race to the byline and cut a pass back to the centre.
The ball arrived slightly behind Proschwitz but he got was still able to launch a powerful finish past Konstantopoulos.
Adomah offered pace and flair to Middlesbrough’s attack, making his original omission something of a head-scratcher, but he was not able to get them on the scoresheet.
His pinpoint cross was headed into the side-netting by Main in injury-time but that was as close as the Teessiders got.