boro’s goal power kills off rangers

Britt Assombalonga.
Britt Assombalonga.

Middlesbrough’s attacking firepower was too much for QPR at the Riverside on Saturday afternoon as Garry Monk’s side moved to within three points of the Championship summit, writes Joe Nicholson.

The Teessiders came from behind twice to maintain their unbeaten home record this campaign, courtesy of goals from Lewis Baker, Ashley Fletcher and Britt Assombalonga.

QPR had taken full advantage of the host’s sluggish start, which allowed Rangers midfielder David Wheeler to open the scoring with less than two minutes on the clock.

Baker’s equaliser drew his side level before the interval, however Boro fell behind again when Jamie Mackie capitalised on a defensive mix-up five minutes into the second half.

New Boro signing Marvin Johnson took his chance to impress, contributing with two assists on his first start for the club.

Monk stuck with a balanced and adaptable 4-2-3-1 formation, which also yielded a 3-0 victory over Bolton a week ago.

However, Boro made the worst possible start when Luke Freeman stole possession in an attacking position and rolled the ball across the penalty area. Wheeler reacted quicker than Boro full-back Fabio, darting ahead of the defender before stabbing the ball past Darren Randolph.

Boro eventually spluttered into gear, though their passing up until the 36th minute was slow and lethargic as Ian Holloway’s side were allowed to settle.

Johnson, who had been the brightest spark, was the catalyst in Boro’s leveller, driving through the heart of the visitor’s defence before feeding Baker, who calmly slotted the ball home.

Monk boldly summoned Fletcher from the substitutes bench at half-time, with Adam Clayton making way for the striker as Boro switched to 4-4-2.

Yet, within five minutes of the restart Rangers had restored their lead after a calamitous error.

Ben Gibson and Randolph both expected the other to clear their lines when the ball was chipped over Boro’s rearguard. Their hesitation provided Mackie with a tap-in.

Boro responded admirably, and quickly restored parity five minutes later when Fletcher nodded Cyrus Christie’s cross past keeper Alex Smithies.

Another five minutes had elapsed when Johnson charged to the byline before cutting the ball back for Assombalonga to head the hosts in front.

Monk said: “We are very pleased with the result in the end. We gifted them the first goal and made it difficult for us.”

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Christie, Fry, Gibson, Da Silva, Leadbitter (Howson 56), Clayton (Fletcher 46), Baker, Downing (Forshaw 78), Assombalonga, Johnson. Subs Not Used: Konstantopoulos, Friend, Shotton, Bamford. Booked: Clayton, Leadbitter, Christie, Baker. Goals: Baker 37, Fletcher 55, Assombalonga 60.

QPR: Smithies, Furlong, Baptiste, Robinson, Bidwell, Luongo, Freeman, Manning, Wheeler (Sylla 68), Smith (Mackie 46), LuaLua (Wszolek 46). Subs Not Used: Borysiuk, Ngbakoto, Lumley, Samuel. Booked: Luongo, Wszolek, Smithies, Mackie. Goals: Wheeler 2, Mackie 50.

Att: 24,790 Ref: Darren Bond.