Leroy Lita inspired Middlesbrough to an emphatic triumphat Bristol City to put behind FA Cup disappointment and stretched the club's unbeaten run to four Championship matches in the process following a deserved 4-0 victory at Ashton Gate. It was the Teessiders' biggest win of the season.
Boro were dumped out of the FA Cup by League Two outfit Burton last week, but all that was forgotten thanks to a Leroy Lita brace, one a penalty, a strike from Barry Robson and a Kalifa Cisse own goal. And to cap a perfect afternoon David James was sent off a minute before time following a foul on substitute Cameron Park.
The unbeaten sequence is Middlesbrough's best since late May last year.
The visitors climbed one place to 19th position following the victory and a defeat to Ipswich at Millwall, while Boro have a four point cushion over the third bottom club Crystal Palace after the south London club's 3-0 loss at Swansea.
David Wheater, Robson, who shook off a thigh injury, and Jason Steele returned to the Boro side after missing last week's FA Cup defeat at Burton, while Andrew Taylor returned to the team for the first time since his loan spell at Watford. Taylor last pulled on a Middlesbrough shirt in the club's 1-0 home victory over Sheffield United on August 22.
The only surprise sprung by boss Tony Mowbray was that in-form Julio Arca was dropped to the bench.
Mowbray also kept faith with a front pairing of Lita and Kris Boyd, while Marvin Emnes, who missed out against Burton through a foot injury, returned to warm the substitutes' bench.
Gary O'Neil demonstrated Middlesbrough meant business as early as the fourth minute. The Boro midfielder let fly from 20 yards and had former England goalkeeper James scrambling across his goal to save. And it was the former Pompey man who made James earn his wages again, six minutes later, from more or less the same distance. This time the experienced goalkeeper pushed the effort away for a corner.
The hosts' response was an audacious Brett Pitman chip from 30 yards while former Sunderland striker Jon Stead also tried his luck from distance without much luck.
The contest then settled into game of mediocrity with no side really taking any initiative although it is fair to say Boro were the more comfortable in possession.
But just when supporters thought both sides would go into the break level, the Teessiders found a breakthrough.
There did not seem as if there was anything on when Taylor hoofed clear of the danger zone. But Lita made it look like a measured pass when seizing on his clearance. The former Bristol City man picked up the ball deep into the City half and then weaved his way into the hosts' boss and found the back of the net via Cisse from close range three minutes before the break.
After the break the hosts came out of the blocks quickly and Marvin Elliott tested the Boro shotstopper in the opening exchanges, while Tony McMahon, on for the injured Justin Hoyte, did likewise for the visitors.
But the Teessiders then made sure of the points when a deep cross from McMahon on the right bounced over the head of Boyd and the City defence to find Lita lurking at the back post in the 58th minute. The ex Robins forward made no mistake with a close range header to make it 2-0. The Democratic Republic of Congo man then annoyed his former supporters by taking his shirt off and celebrating in front of them. He was booked for his pains.
City tried to get themselves back into the clash but every time they found the imposing figure of David Wheater and his defensive colleagues.
Robson put a gloss on the finish when he weaved his way past a couple of players before his effort inside the 18-yard box was deflected past James for 3-0.
Lita then finished the romp when he blasted a penalty past Liam Fontaine after James was sent off for felling Boro substitute Cameron Park in the last minute.
Source: Northern Echo
Source: Northern Echo