Terriers lose a tight game in the North East
A first half goal from Middlesbrough’s teenage wing back Djed Spence settled a tight affair at the Riverside Stadium, but the Terriers will be disappointed not to take anything from the game after spurning some big second half chances.
Town lost Jonathan Hogg to injury midway through the opening 45 minutes and conceded the only goal barely 10 minutes later, but the game’s two big chances came in the second half when Jon Gorenc Stanković headed over and Steve Mounié fired over from close range.
Manager Danny Cowley selected the same starting XI that defeated Nottingham Forest a few days earlier but changed the shape in response to Boro’s 5-4-1. Juninho Bacuna moved back into central midfield in a fluid 4-3-3 alongside Trevoh Chalobah.
However, it was the home side that started well. Left wing back Hayden Coulson volleyed well off target inside four minutes before towering centre half Daniel Ayala headed a free kick over under pressure from Mounié.
Town settled down and started to dominate the ball soon after, passing patiently between the defence and midfield whilst probing the Boro back line.
Top scorer Karlan Grant had a penalty claim waved away in the 21st minute after going down under an Ayala challenge.
Hogg, visibly struggling by this point with a hip problem, was soon withdrawn, meaning an early – but welcome – return for Lewis O’Brien after his own four game injury absence.
Boro looked a threat on the counter and scored from the only real chance of the first half in the 37th minute. Marcus Tavernier was afforded too much space between Town’s defence and midfield and collected the ball before advancing. He slipped a pass left to striker Ashley Fletcher, who squeezed a low cross between the bodies in a crowded box for Spence – who was impressive on the right – to slot past a diving Grabara.
The game’s other chances of note came in the second period. Boro had started the better, but Town created two big chances around the hour mark.
Ayala misplaced a back-pass out for a Town corner and was almost made to pay. With Boro keeping a close eye on Mounié at the back post, Grant instead delivered to the near where Stanković charged onto the ball. Unfortunately for the Town fans at that side of the pitch, his headed flashed narrowly over the bar.
There was an even bigger chance spurned barely five minutes later through Mounié. Some neat interplay between O’Brien and Kachunga set the latter away down the right and his cross was miskicked into the striker’s path by Jonny Howson. Somewhat caught off guard, the Benin international volleyed awkwardly over from close range, drawing ironic cheers from the disbelieving home supporters.
Town were continuing to press during this period. Bacuna soon came to life, first testing goalkeeper Aynsley Pears with a shot from range that needed pushing away before curing over on his weaker left side.
At the other end, Coulson placed a shot wide after more good work from Spence on the right before Fletcher saw a shot blocked well by Grabara, who got his angles right.
Bacuna forced another save from Pears late on, but the late charge never quite materialised. Instead, Boro had a goal ruled out for offside late on and O’Brien was needed to block a late Tavernier effort.
Town’s team vs Middlesbrough (4-3-3)
Kamil Grabara; Florent Hadergjonaj, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Christopher Schindler (c), Danny Simpson; Juninho Bacuna, Jonathan Hogg (Lewis O’Brien, 24’), Trevoh Chalobah; Karlan Grant, Steve Mounié, Elias Kachunga
Joel Coleman; Josh Koroma, Jaden Brown, Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Demeaco Duhaney, Matty Daly
Juninho Bacuna (43’); Kamil Grabara (77’), Lewis O’Brien (82’), Karlan Grant (90’)