Report: Blues 1 Middlesbrough 4

Blues remain in 17th position ahead of a trip to Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day.


Blues fell to defeat against Middlesbrough at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium.

Aitor Karanka’s side had led their final Sky Bet Championship match before Christmas through an impressive Maxime Colin effort.

However, after Britt Assombalonga’s eqauliser, a further three Boro goals without reply put the game beyond Blues.

Despite the loss, Blues remain in 17th position ahead of a trip to Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day.

The starting XI had five changes to the side that took on Cardiff midweek. Scott Hogan made his first start since the win at Reading, with Kristian Pedersen returning from his one-game suspension. There were also recalls from the off for Adam Clayton, Mikel San José and Jeremie Bela.

Attacking the Tilton Road End in the first half, Blues created a chance in just the third minute when Bela saw his inviting cross headed narrowly wide by the recalled Hogan.

In response, Middlesbrough looked to cause problems in behind but were rocked when Blues scored their first goal in the opening 45 minutes of a home game since early November. More fine footwork from Bela gave him a yard to deliver, with right-back Maxime Colin the beneficiary as he fired high into the net after Jon Toral’s initial effort had been blocked.

Not content, Blues set about Boro and almost doubled their advantage just minutes later. Again, Bela created the opportunity, with this time Hogan forcing Marcus Bettinelli into an impressive save with his feet.

It was, however, Boro who against the run of play scored the games next goal through Assombalonga. The frontman found room to finish at the near post having been fed by Marc Bola in the 27th minute. And four minutes later the visitors were in front thanks to another close-range finish. This time it was midfielder George Saville who navigated the penalty area to convert Marvin Johnson’s low cross.

Half-time: Blues 0 Middlesbrough 0

Karanka responded to the setback by making a double substitution at the break with Maikel Kieftenbeld and Ivan Sunjic being direct replacements for San José and former Boro man Clayton.

Although it was in Blues’ final third that the initial action of the second period took place with Neil Etheridge parrying Saville’s effort before Marc Roberts cleared the danger.

This was followed by a spell of pressure from the home side, only for Toral and Bela’s deliveries to be met by red shirts as Neil Warnock’s men looked to shut up shop.

Boro then landed a sucker punch just before the hour mark. Lewis Wing’s corner appeared a regulation catch for Etheridge until the ball slipped through his grasp to drop in the far corner for the visitor’s third.

Blues looked to respond with the attacking changes of Gary Gardner, Jonathan Leko and Lukas Jutkiewicz, but it was such intent to get back into the game that cost Karanka’s side in the 82nd minute. Breaking away with Assombalonga, the ball was laid back to the on-rushing Wing whose well-hit drive found the net from 20 yards.

Blues (4-2-3-1): Neil Etheridge, Maxime Colin, Marc Roberts, Harlee Dean (captain), Kristian Pedersen, Mikel San José (Maikel Kieftenbeld h-t), Adam Clayton (Ivan Sunjic h-t), Ivan Sanchez (Jonathan Leko 61), Jon Toral (Lukas Jutkiewicz 61), Jeremie Bela (Gary Gardner 61), Scott Hogan.

Substitutes not used: Andrés Prieto, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Jake Clarke-Salter, Alen Halilović.

Booking: none.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Marcus Bettinelli, Anfernee Dijksteel, Dael Fry, Paddy McNair, Marc Bola, Sam Morsy, George Saville, Lewis Wing, Tavernier, Marvin Johnson (Djed Spence 75), Britt Assombalonga (Chuba Akpom 83).

Substitutes not used: Dejan Stojanovic, Sol Brynn, Nathan Wood, Hayden Coulson, Isaiah Jones, Sam Folarin, Duncan Watmore.

Booking: Fry 13.

Referee: Stephen Martin