Luton further boosted their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Championship after ending their miserable away run with a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
Ryan Tunnicliffe’s lovely finish to grab his first goal of the season in the 17th minute was enough for the Hatters to end a run of 12 successive defeats in all competitions – avoiding equalling a club record of 13 in the process.
Tunnicliffe’s winner also secured Luton’s first win on Teesside since 1972, and left Middlesbrough wondering when their second victory of 2020 will come.
Jonathan Woodgate’s Boro have now gone nine games without a win, seven in the league, since beating Preston on New Year’s Day – and the gap over the relegation zone has been reduced to six points.
Luton, fresh from beating Sheffield Wednesday in midweek to climb off the foot off the table, started positively and Middlesbrough never got going.
Woodgate made a few changes in the hope of finding the winning formula and that included recalling Djed Spence down the right and asking skipper George Friend to make his comeback from injury.
After a pretty quiet opening quarter of an hour, Friend’s head was involved in the opening goal for Luton when he could only flick Dan Potts’ left-wing delivery on for Tunnicliffe to strike first time beyond goalkeeper Aynsley Pears.
Rather than spark a reaction from Middlesbrough, however, Luton kept digging away and they made things difficult for their hosts.
Pears was called on a couple of times to gather crosses as the home supporters got frustrated.
The goalkeeper would have been beaten 11 minutes before the break too had it not been for Jonny Howson.
The Middlesbrough defender, who has swapped his midfield role this season, was in the right place to block and deflect a Potts header when a second Luton goal looked certain.
Middlesbrough forced a few corners before the break but there was nothing for visiting goalkeeper Simon Sluga to do, and Luton had their moments in the closing stages of the half to put the hosts under more pressure.
After the restart Middlesbrough still struggled to get going. Luton dictated much of the play without testing Pears, and they had a small penalty appeal waved away when Spence blocked Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu’s effort from distance with his arm in the area.
Woodgate introduced Britt Assombalonga and Rudy Gestede but Middlesbrough could still not come up with an answer to Tunnicliffe’s opener – although they did fashion one great chance to level.
When Hayden Coulson got to the line and delivered brilliantly into the six-yard box it looked like an equaliser was coming. However, Assombalonga headed over the bar, with Gestede lurking behind and expecting to head in, and the chance, and points, were lost.
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