Andraz Sporar gets the only goal as Middlesbrough beat Coventry
Andraz Sporar’s fourth goal in his last six matches lifted Middlesbrough up to sixth after sealing a 1-0 win over Coventry.
The Sky Blues, who were only a place and a couple of points behind Boro beforehand, had their chances and hammered the woodwork at the Riverside.
But it was Sporar’s eighth goal of the season that proved decisive to return Middlesbrough to winning ways on a blustery afternoon by the River Tees.
The Slovenian, on loan from Sporting Lisbon, pounced in the six-yard area to convert a low cross from substitute Folarin Balogun to edge the home side in front.
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That winning goal lifted Middlesbrough, who lost for the first time in eight matches at Blackburn last Monday, back into the play-off zone
Chris Wilder’s men had to be alert throughout the 90 minutes because of Coventry’s quick passing style which caused problems.
Coventry, though, only tested Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Lumley once in the opening period when he was needed to turn away Callum O’Hare’s first time effort with the break approaching.
Before that Middlesbrough were the team that created the better of the openings, even if they were hardly golden chances.
After Josh Eccles had shot wide from Viktor Gyokeres’ lay-off at the opposite end, Middlesbrough went close a few times.
Sporar had a goalbound drive blocked well by Dominic Hyam and Aaron Connolly shot low into Coventry goalkeeper Simon Moore’s arms after controlling Marcus Tavernier’s pass well.
Moore made an even better stop just after the half hour mark when he was forced down low to his left to thwart Paddy McNair’s dangerous free-kick around the wall from 20 yards.
After the restart Coventry caused more problems and rattled the crossbar six minutes into the second half when Kyle McFadzean controlled Matt Crooks’ headed clearance before volleying against the woodwork.
Middlesbrough boss Wilder sensed something different was required so sent on a double substitution, with Balogun and Martin Payero introduced.
Less than two minutes later Balogun, on loan from Arsenal, darted past his man in the area and delivered the perfect low delivery into the six-yard box for Sporar to apply the finish.
Coventry soon went on the offensive in search of a leveller and O’Hare glanced a header which had to be brilliantly turned over for a corner by Lumley.
That was all part of a nervy final half hour when McNair also headed against the post for Middlesbrough.
Lumley, who was booked for time-wasting late on, had to hold a low strike from Gyokeres which he had fashioned himself, as the visitors finished strongly without finding that vital equaliser.