Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka was delighted to see Jordan Rhodes score shis first double for the club in Saturday’s last-gasp 2-1 win at relegated Bolton.
Rhodes had only scored twice in his previous 13 games at his new club, yet Karanka has kept an arm around his shoulder and never doubted his touch in front of goal would return.
lways one day it would arrive that he would score goals and it was today.
“I told him after the game that a goalscorer can’t forget to score goals in two months,” said the Boro boss.
“Always one day it would arrive that he would score goals and it was today - two important goals.
“I don’t think it’s been easy for him. He’s not a strong character, you can see it in his face. The reason I am pleased for him is because sometimes when you do your best and you’re unlucky you are going down. He was always trusting himself.
“Today, the most important day, he arrived and he was there to help the team.”
Boro did much of the early running. Adam Forshaw was rewarded with a start having scored the injury-time winner that sent Boro top in midweek and he almost struck inside a minute with a shot which went over the top.
Rhodes somehow completely missed Albert Adomah’s enticing cross, Daniel Ayala nodded over from a corner and Stewart Downing then rattled the crossbar with an attempt from almost 30 yards that came down and bounced away from Ben Amos’ line.
Despite their predicament, Wanderers have only been beaten by more than one goal at home once this term and they were posing threats themselves with a couple of dangerous balls from Zach Clough and Darren Pratley.
Clough will be one of the players Bolton are keen to hang on to when they reshape their squad this summer and he showed why with a run from inside his own half which resulted in Mark Davies back-heeling straight at Dimi Konstantopoulos.
After Clough had landed a curling effort on to the roof of the net, Rhodes headed straight at Amos and Ritchie de Laet blazed Emilio Nsue’s lay-off over to draw a goalless first half to a close.
Just 12 minutes after the resumption Karanka decided to bring on Gaston Ramirez, yet he was unable to make an instant impact as the hosts grabbed the lead.
Niall Maher’s long throw was nodded on by Middlesbrough’s Adam Clayton and Emile Heskey was able to roll the ball back for Vela to sweep in his second goal of the campaign.
There was little evidence that Boro were going to get back into the game but they did exactly that with 17 minutes to go as Rhodes levelled.
From Forshaw’s right-wing cross, Rhodes’ initial header was blocked by David Wheater but, with Amos having already committed to the attempt, the Boro striker was able to roll home a simple finish when the ball came back to him.
Four minutes later the visitors should have been ahead as De Laet’s cross was volleyed over six yards out by Ramirez, who was unable to keep the ball down when reaching for a delivery that was slightly behind him.
Karanka finally introduced David Nugent with three minutes to go and his arrival proved pivotal.
Rhodes had already gone close to a winner twice, directing one header narrowly wide before hitting the post with an overhead kick, and the Scotland international then glanced home a Nugent cross at the back post to keep Boro’s title charge on track ahead of a trip to Burnley tomorrow.
Bolton: Amos, Maher, Holding, Wheater, Moxey, Pratley, Osede, Vela (Woolery 88), Clough, Heskey (Trotter 70), Davies. Subs Not Used: Rachubka, Danns, Dobbie, Twardzik, Threlkeld. Booked: Davies, Amos, Vela. Goals: Vela 61.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, De Laet, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Forshaw, Nsue (Ramirez 57), Downing (Nugent 87), Adomah, Rhodes (Kalas 90). Subs Not Used: Leadbitter, De Pena, Mejias, De Sart. Booked: Nsue, Ayala. Goals: Rhodes 73, 90.
Att: 18,196 Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).