Middlesbrough make it 10 points from the last four matches with a 1-0 win over Bournemouth

Middlesbrough’s improvement under Chris Wilder continued as they made it 10 points from the last four matches with a 1-0 win over Bournemouth.

Saturday, 18th December 2021, 7:16 pm

Andraz Sporar’s second-half penalty settled things at the Riverside, with the Slovenian slotting home after Isaiah Jones had been fouled on the corner of the box.

Bournemouth only had themselves to blame as they missed out on the chance to move to the top of the Sky Bet Championship, with Dominic Solanke and Ryan Christie both failing to hit the target with excellent chances in the first half.

Bournemouth’s fans were faced with a 636-mile round trip for the lunchtime kick-off, with supporters’ coaches having left the Vitality Stadium at 3am.

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Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

They would have been alarmed by the brightness of Middlesbrough’s start, but impressed with the reflexes of their side’s goalkeeper Mark Travers six minutes in.

An onrushing Matt Crooks met Jones’ low cross with a first-time side-footed shot, but Travers did excellently to fling out his left hand and keep the ball out.

Boro were a threat in the early stages, with Jones and Duncan Watmore making incisive breaks behind the Bournemouth defence, but the Cherries gradually got a hold of things in midfield and became increasingly dominant in terms of possession as the first half wore on.

Christie curled a low shot just wide of the post midway through the opening period after robbing the ball off Marcus Tavernier inside the Boro half, and with the home defence repeatedly playing themselves into trouble, Bournemouth went close again on the half-hour mark.

Paddy McNair played Jonny Howson into trouble, but while Jaidon Anthony won the ball and broke into the penalty area, he dragged a low shot wide of the post.

With Solanke heading Christie’s cross wide moments later, the visitors were well on top as half-time approached, although Travers was forced into his second fine save of the game just before the break.

Anfernee Dijksteel’s scuffed shot was heading in after taking a hefty deflection off Lloyd Kelly, but Travers got down well to claw the ball to safety.

It was a decent chance for the Teessiders, but Bournemouth wasted an even better one in first-half stoppage time. Christie looked certain to score when he met Anthony’s low cross on the edge of the six-yard box, but his shot cannoned into the turf before looping over the crossbar.

For all that goals were at a premium, the chances kept coming at regular intervals all afternoon, and it was Boro’s turn to go close five minutes after the break.

Jones’ through-ball sent Sporar through the middle, but his low shot was saved by Travers’ foot. Tavernier’s follow-up header was cleared to Watmore, but his first-time volley flew over the bar.

Three minutes later, however, and Middlesbrough were ahead. Jones’ surging run took him into the area, and was only halted when he was bundled over by Anthony. Sporar stepped up and rolled home his fourth league goal of the season from the spot.

Joe Lumley pushed away Junior Stanislas’ long-range free-kick as Bournemouth tried to rally, but Scott Parker’s side never really looked like getting back on level terms.