Johnson nets winner as Middlesbrough edge past Reading
Middlesbrough celebrated their 500th league game at the Riverside in style as Marvin Johnson’s second-half strike secured a 1-0 win over Reading.
Twenty-four years after the Teessiders began their new life away from Ayresome Park with a 2-0 win over Chelsea, Jonathan Woodgate’s side were triumphant again as they claimed their second Sky Bet Championship success of the season.
Johnson’s free-kick settled things, although Middlesbrough were indebted to goalkeeper Darren Randolph for three excellent late saves that prevented Reading from claiming an equaliser.
Reading boss Jose Gomes surprisingly opted to drop striker George Puscas to the bench and while the Romanian’s replacement, Yakou Meite, enjoyed a reasonable first half, he was unable to match his team-mate’s goalscoring threat.
Having broken into the right-hand side of the area early on, Meite’s shot was blocked by Ryan Shotton, and the Ivory Coast international faltered again later in the first half, drilling a low shot straight at Randolph after exploiting some hesitancy from Marc Bola.
Randolph also made a first-half save from John Swift, but it was not one-way traffic before the break with Middlesbrough creating chances of their own.
The best fell to Paddy McNair but while the Northern Irishman did well to break into the box from the right, his low shot was directed too close to Rafael Cabral, with the Reading goalkeeper getting down well to save.
It was a day when both keepers impressed and Randolph made another important intervention at the start of the second half.
Liverpool loanee Evie Ojaria fired in a crisp drive from the edge of the area but Randolph highlighted why he is regarded as one of the best shot-stoppers outside of the Premier League as he saved to his left.
It proved a key moment as 10 minutes later Middlesbrough claimed the lead. Michael Morrison fouled Ashley Fletcher close to the right touchline, enabling Johnson to whip in a free-kick.
Fletcher lunged at the ball in the six-yard box and while he failed to make any contact, he unsighted Cabral, who could only watch on as the ball nestled in the corner of the net.
Boro almost claimed a second moments later but as Lewis Wing fashioned a shooting opportunity as he dribbled past two men into the box, his effort was blocked by a fine sliding challenge from Andy Yiadom.
Johnson also threatened to extend the home side’s lead as he fired in a shot that Cabral turned around the post, but Reading came close to an equaliser with nine minutes left. Swift’s chipped free-kick was heading in until Randolph tipped the ball over the top.
Boro’s goalkeeper was the key figure in the closing stages, with two dramatic late saves securing his side all three points.
Displaying superb agility, Randolph turned Lucas Joao’s front-post header around the post before clawing away another goal-bound effort from Liam Moore.