Manager Garry Monk was pleased with the performance of his Middlesbrough players, despite last night’s Carabao Cup exit to Premier League side Bournemouth.
The 3-1 defeat at the Vitality Stadium leaves the Teessiders without a win in six games in all competitions, heading into a crucial Championship clash at Reading on Saturday.
Callum Wilson ended his nine-month injury nightmare with a match-winning display as Bournemouth booked their place in the quarter-finals h.
Striker Wilson, making his first appearance since suffering knee ligament damage in January, rolled home the Cherries’ second goal from the penalty spot before teeing up substitute Benik Afobe for the clincher.
Debutant defender Jack Simpson had earlier volleyed the hosts into the lead, before they were pegged back by a first senior goal from Boro teenager Marcus Tavernier.
“It’s very hard to fault a lot of that performance,” said Monk. “We were excellent.
“We’ve got to remember we’re playing against a Premier League side at their ground and they’ve got a lot of quality, but, for long periods of that game, we more than matched them and showed real quality in our performance.
“We’re disappointed with the result, of course.”
Bournemouth made eight changes to their starting line-up, while defender Daniel Ayala was the only Boro player retained from Saturday’s defeat to Cardiff.
The hosts dominated the ball in the opening 20 minutes and had numerous chances to edge in front.
French forward Lys Mousset had the ball in the net with six minutes played, heading in Ryan Fraser’s left-wing free-kick before rightly being denied his first Cherries goal by an offside flag.
Centre-back Simpson, making his first professional appearance, then nodded narrowly wide from a Fraser corner, before Mousset’s strike partner Wilson was inches wide with a shot on the turn.
Boro tested Artur Boruc at the other end through Connor Roberts’ powerful drive from distance before the lively Adama Traore almost broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time.
Traore dispossessed Dan Gosling in the centre of midfield, advanced forward and then unleashed a stinging drive which whistled narrowly wide of Boruc’s goal.
After their performance tailed off in the opening period, Bournemouth again began brightly after the restart and went ahead in the 49th minute.
Fraser swung over a corner from the left and 20-year-old Simpson held off the attentions of his marker to steer home from close range.
But Boro equalised seven minutes later. Eighteen-year-old winger Tavernier claimed it, calmly sliding into the bottom right corner following Traore’s pacey run and precise through ball.
Boro’s leveller was ultimately in vain, however, as Wilson turned on the style.
The former Coventry man restored the home lead with 15 minutes remaining, coolly converting his spot-kick into the bottom right corner after Simpson was pulled back in the area by Dael Fry.
And, eight minutes later, he ensured victory as he burst into the area and squared for Afobe to tap home.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe said: “The biggest compliment I can give Callum is that he’s played 90 minutes and it didn’t really look hard for him, physically.
“I think his overall performance gives me something to think about.
“We’ve got competition in that area, for sure. I’ll have a few sleepless nights, if everyone’s fit, trying to pick a team and pick a bench but that’s what you want. I was very pleased with him, he’s done his chances no harm.”
Bournemouth: Boruc, A Smith (Ake 84), Simpson, S Cook, Daniels, Fraser (Afobe 77), Gosling, Arter, Pugh, C Wilson, Mousset (Ibe 70). Subs not used: Ramsdale, Hyndman, Mahoney, Butcher. Goals: Simpson 49, C Wilson 75 pen, Afobe 83
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Roberts, Fry, Ayala, Friend, Clayton, Forshaw, Traore, Baker (Fletcher 83), Tavernier (Downing 76), Bamford. Subs not used: Da Silva, Gibson, Mejias, Howson, Wing. Booked: Fry. Goal: Tavernier 56
Ref: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).