Derby suffer heavy defeat at play-off chasing Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough v Derby County – Sky Bet Championship – Riverside Stadium
(Image credit: Richard Sellers)

Middlesbrough moved into the Sky Bet Championship play-off places with a resounding 4-1 victory over Derby at the Riverside Stadium.

All the talk in the build up to the game was surrounding the off-field drama between the two clubs, with a resolution to Boro’s legal claim against the Rams having been agreed this week.

But Derby were left with plenty to resolve on the pitch after being dismantled by Boro – a defeat which leaves them four points from safety.

Lee Buchanan’s own goal was cancelled out by Max Bird, but Boro led 3-1 at the break after quick-fire goals from Aaron Connolly and Matt Crooks before Duncan Watmore rounded off the scoring in the 89th minute.

Middlesbrough went in front when Isaiah Jones produced the first of his assists as he charged down the right and played a teasing ball across goal only for Buchanan to prod the ball through the legs of his own goalkeeper after 16 minutes.

Derby responded six minutes before the break as Bird fired a first-time volley from Paddy McNair’s clearing header that managed to squeeze its way through a crowd of bodies and into the bottom left corner to send the travelling support wild.

While the concern was whether tempers would flare off the pitch, it starting boiling over on it as Marcus Tavernier and Tom Lawrence went head to head during an off-the-ball altercation while Crooks was booked for a dangerous challenge.

But with the half-time interval looming, Jones took the game by the scruff of the neck.

He played a ball to Connolly with his back to goal in the 44th minute and the Irish striker turned and saw his shot deflect off Curtis Davies into the opposite corner for his first Boro goal.

Middlesbrough might have been happy to go into the break with their slender lead but Jones was not as he completed a hat-trick off assists in first-half stoppage time.

After finding room down the right, he drove at the Derby defence, side stepped one man and played a teasing cross through his legs to Crooks who slammed home from close range.

In the second half, Folarin Balogun, who was also looking for his first Boro goal, came within inches of doing so when neat play freed him down the left. He drove into the box and flashed a shot across goal but Ryan Allsop got his fingers to it.

Derby could not really provide an answer to Boro’s attack and struggled to carve out a concrete chance.

Chris Wilder’s side banged on the door with a flurry of chances for Tavernier and Connolly but Allsop was on hand to palm fierce shots away from goal.

And the game was put to bed when Balogun nicked the ball away from Buchanan and sold the keeper and defender with a dragback before he put it on a plate for Watmore who squirmed the ball under Davies.

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