Middlesbrough bounced back from an ill-timed run of three games without a win in ruthless style as they thrashed Norwich 5-1 at the Riverside Stadium.
Michael Carrick’s men had failed to win any of their last three Championship matches and as a result, dropped away from the cusp of the automatic promotion places they had worked so hard to challenge for.
Ex-Canaries loanee Aaron Ramsey set Boro on their way after seven minutes, Hayden Hackney and Cameron Archer then scored one each, before Josh Sargent scored his first since February to slightly reduce the deficit.
But suspect defending allowed Archer to add his second before the break and it was game over when Chuba Akpom netted his 27th league goal of the season shortly after it.
Boro leap above Luton into third spot on goal difference, five points behind second-placed Sheffield United, albeit having played two games more than the Blades, while Norwich stay eighth, one point off the top six ahead of the remainder of the weekend’s action.
How Middlesbrough turned on the style to bounce back
On a sodden surface on Teesside, Middlesbrough were put under pressure from the first whistle by a Norwich side still hoping to creep into the top six in the final weeks of the season, but against the run of play, they took the lead when Ramsey tapped in Archer’s pull-back – and never once looked back.
The hosts thought they had a second when Darragh Lenihan glanced in a wicked ball from Jonny Howson, only for the defender to be correctly flagged offside, but it was two when Hackney slammed in Marcus Forss’ hung-up ball, despite Norwich’s fury that the game had been allowed to continue as Sam McCallum lay on the pitch apparently injured.
Norwich then gave the ball away cheaply, which allowed Archer to curl in following a cute ball from Alex Mowatt, and though Sargent pulled one back within a minute, it was soon cancelled out as Archer helped in his second after some shambolic defending from a needless free-kick.
No sooner had the second half kicked off, Middlesbrough had extended their lead further. A typically brilliant tackle from Alex Mowatt took the ball away from Gabriel Sara and allowed Archer to square for Akpom to continue his stunning form in front of goal by matching the Championship record after scoring for the eighth home game in succession.
Much of the second half passed without incident, which was perhaps to be expected. However, with just under 20 minutes to play, Sara struck the post and moments later Max Aarons went down in the box after being caught on the shin by Ryan Giles. The way he went to ground was theatrical, though, and referee Josh Smith was not convinced.
Archer ignored the overlapping run to try and complete his hat-trick in the closing minutes of the game, but Angus Gunn was equal to his effort and, by that point, it did not matter anyway.
Player of the match – Cameron Archer
Middlesbrough’s Michael Carrick:
“We played pretty well. I think we’ve actually played better at times, to be honest! We were pretty ruthless at both ends of the pitch and I’m delighted to get back to winning ways. A good night all round for us.
“We were calm after the results we had over the last couple of weeks. Performances were still there, largely. We didn’t have loads to change; we had to improve a little bit, but we still believed in the right things and believed it would turn for us and it has tonight. The next few games are a whole new, fresh challenge for us, so we’ll have to recover well and see who’s fit for Wednesday night.”
Norwich’s David Wagner:
“At the end of the day, we made horrendous mistakes, to be totally honest, in front of both goals. I think we came into the game quite well, had a good opportunity when it was 0-0 and a very good opportunity when we were 1-0 down. Then we concede the second goal, which was a little bit unlucky because our left-back was on the ground and then they attacked our left side. Then we lost our heads. We made some horrendous individual mistakes when we conceded the goals and this is why we lost this game.
“We will do it like we have done the whole time, we will do it game by game. Now it’s about trying to analyse this game, which will be quite easy, to be fair, because they are individual mistakes that were so clear and obvious and Boro used them.”
Both teams are back in action on Wednesday April 19. At 7.45pm, Norwich travel to Loftus Road to take on QPR, while at 8pm, Middlesbrough host Hull at the Riverside Stadium.
Both matches will be available to watch live across Sky Sports.
#Middlesbrough #Norwich #City #Cameron #Archer #scores #Michael #Carricks #Boro #promotion #push #track