MATCH REPORT & GALLERY: Middlesbrough 2 Ipswich Town 0

Paul Taylor is disappointed to miss a good first half chance at Middlesborough

Paul Taylor is disappointed to miss a good first half chance at Middlesborough - Credit: Archant

Middlebrough v Ipswich: Middlesbrough striker Danny Graham scored both goals as Ipswich Town’s top six hopes received a sizeable dent with a 2-0 defeat at the Riverside Stadium.

The Blues were second best throughout against a side who came into the match having failed to score in 11 hours and 45 minutes.

Town right-back Luke Chambers was given a torrid time by flying winger Mustapha Carayol, the latter’s driving run and shot spilled by Dean Gerken in the build-up to Graham breaking the deadlock in the 29th minute.

The on loan Sunderland front man then glanced home a brilliant near post header, from Grant Leadbitter’s corner, in first half stoppage-time to all but kill off the game.

Lacklustre Ipswich were completely devoid of attacking ideas and produced just one tame shot on target inside the 90 minutes as they suffered only their third away defeat in 12 matches.

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Reading’s 1-1 home draw with Brighton means the gap to sixth-spot remains four points for ninth-placed Ipswich, but seventh-place Wigan have two games in hand, while eighth-placed Brighton also have an extra game.

While the Blues starting XI remained unchanged following last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Birmingham, Boro boss Aitor Karanka made six changes to his team following their 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

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With Middlesbrough having not scored or conceded a goal from open play in their six previous matches it was no surprise that the crowd at the Riverside was just 13,965 (450 of them in the away end). The home fans that did turn up were given plenty to shout about from the off though.

Lee Tomlin – making his first start for the Teesiders – started a move in the fourth minute with a driving run, his pass into Graham neatly laid off for Emmanuel Ledesma to drive just wide of the right-hand post.

And it was Tomlin’s tricky piece of dribbling, which bemused Aaron Cresswell and Tommy Smith, which led to the free-kick from which the home side’s next big chance came. Ledesma’s deep delivery was only half-cleared, George Friend lashing the loose ball over inside the box.

Very quickly it became apparent that Boro were dominating down their left side, full-back George Friend bombing forwards at every opportunity and Mustapha Carayol – back off the naughty step having been dropped for what Karanka described as a ‘bad attitude’ – looking like he had a different engine size to Luke Chambers.

Friend won the foot race with Chambers in the 19th minute, tricking his way inside before getting his angled shot all wrong.

Two minutes later, Smith got caught high up the pitch, Carayol intercepted and drove forwards before unleashing a low shot which was deflected just wide.

Home pressure was mounting and it was only a last-ditch intervention from Christophe Berra which prevented Graham going through one-on-one in the 25th minute.

It felt like a case of when, not if, Boro would end their goal drought. And the deadlock was broken just before the half an hour mark thanks in no small part to two Town errors.

First Chambers got caught on the ball on the halfway line, allowing Carayol to burst forwards and unleash a low shot from the edge of the box. As well struck as the effort was, keeper Gerken should have done better than to push it straight into the path of the on-rushing Graham to tap home from inside the six-yard area.

With the proverbial monkey off their backs, Boro pushed for a second and it arrived deep into first half stoppage-time.

Former Ipswich captain Grant Leadbitter failed to beat the first man with his first corner attempt. His follow-up effort was met by the head of Graham at the near post and glanced perfectly across Gerken into the far corner of the net.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy responded by bringing on Luke Hyam for Nouble at half-time. It was harsh on the latter, who had worked his socks off and been supplied with next to no service. Something, however, had to change.

Things didn’t get much better for the visitors after the restart though, that killer second goal just before the break having sucked the life out of them.

Taylor petulantly smashed the ball into row z after inadvertently controlling with hand, while moments later Aaron Cresswell’s highly ambitious 30-yard effort drew ironic cheers from the home crowd as it went tamely wide.

The ‘oles’ started in the crowd just after the hour mark as the home side confidently stroked the ball around the pitch. A frustrated Christophe Berra launched himself into a meaty challenge only to come off worse and spend the next few minutes limping.

Town finally produced their first shot on target of the match in the 66th minute, though Konstantopoulos could have thrown his cap on Daryl Murphy’s shot on the turn. Cue more ironic cheers.

The game then rather petered out, with Graham, Tomlin and Cararyol all substituted to standing ovations.

Paul Green curled an effort just wide, while Berra – thrown up front in the closing stages – forced a good save out of the keeper with a back post header following Jonny Williams’ shimmy and cross.

It was too little, too late.

- Reaction to follow.

MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos; Varga, Gibson, Omeruo, Friend; Chalobah, Leadbitter (cpt); Carayol (Main 81), Tomlin (Butterfield 77), Ledesma; Graham (Kamara 71).

Subs: Steele, Williams, Atkinson, Morris.

Booked: Ledesma (70)

IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-3): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Green, Skuse, Tabb (Williams 71); Nouble (Hyam 46), Taylor (Ebanks-Blake 69), Murphy.

Subs: Loach, Mings, Anderson, Hunt.

Booked: Hyam (52), Chambers (71)

Attendance: 13,965 (450 away)

Referee: Mr Iain Williamson

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