Boro Tame Lions and Hit Play Offs
By Robert Nichols
Sunday 29 Apr 2018 11:18:00
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If any of the Boro players shared the nerves of the fans yesterday they did not show it as we powered past Millwall and into the play offs. Tony Pulis kept faith with Britt Assombalonga and the striker shot Boro into a first half lead. Jonny Howson profited from an alarming defensive mix up to make the game safe in the second half. Now barring a big goal difference swing to Derby Boro will go head to head with Aston Villa in the play offs. Hopefully all those that invaded the pitch to goad Millwall fans will not be allowed to share and spoil the occasion.

Boro looked focussed and totally locked in to the job as the home season concluded with a play off head to head with Millwall. Off the back of victories against Bristol City and away at Derby, Boro looked determined from the start to make it three out of three as we attacked the visitors from the kick off. The tea time start gave us the advantage of knowing that we only needed to draw while Millwall had to win. But there was never any question of Tony Pulis Boro playing for the draw, we attacked from the off.

With Millwall doubling up on our danger man Adama Traore we switched to the left where Downing and Friend combined and struck hard at Millwall. Man of the match, Mo Besic, motored forward at every opportunity and ahead of them Britt Assombalonga latched onto any passes over the top. George Friend was advancing to win the ball in the air and allowing Britt to scrap it out on the deck. The away side were struggling against us from the off.

The opening goal came after 12 minutes, Assombalonga chased down a long clearance and beat his man at the second attempt just inside the box before shooting hard and low and into the bottom corner of the net. The Riverside erupted. 1-0. Any nerves in the stands evaporated immediately.

The atmosphere and wall of red had been evident from the start a stark contrast to the dark coats worn in the away end. Admittedly it was not a warm day but down by the Riverside Millwall's play off hopes were quickly in hot water and ebbing away.

Millwall did gradually try and hit back with the wily veteran Morison trying every trick in the book to ruffle Boro at corners. But we were standing firm with Ayala and Gibson rocks and Randolph grabbing everything with two hands. Collectively, we were giving absolutely nothing away.

While the Lions were trying to build attacks we were a constant threat on the break with Downing, Britt and Traore all striking forward at pace. Traore screwed one chance wide. Downing was tackled in the box, when just about to pull the trigger. Millwall were rocking.

At half time Middlesbrough swimmer, Aimee Willmott showed off her Commonwealth gold medal, could Boro also strike for gold and the play offs after the break?

Millwall needed to force the pace and won a few corners before Boro put the game and play offs out of reach for the visitors. Keeper Jordan Archer allowed the ball to drift through his hands after an amazing mix up with his centre back and Jonny Howson was on the spot to pass the ball into the unguarded net. 2-0. And play offs.

The task was now insurmountable for our opponents. We were able to bring on first Bamford and then Fabio, Britt and Downing getting standing ovations having made massive contributions to the victory.

Our threat on the break continued. Bamford curled one effort wide of the post after thundering away. Traore was chopped down like a tree after slaloming through Millwall's centre. Mo Besic made one tremendous run but tumbled in the box, almost certainly it should have been a penalty. But he picked up a needless booking when he raced after the referee in complaint.

The final whistle was greeted with applause right around the pitch. Unfortunately there would be no chance for supporters to show their appreciation for their players because of those pitch invaders. This in no way ruins the day or the achievement but they should think of the selfishness of their actions in preventing the majority of fans from enjoying the moment. Those that spilled over to deliberately provoke the Millwall fans will hopefully not be back at the Riverside anytime soon.

Now, as fans we can relax for the final away game at Ipswich. But the players need to keep their intensity and momentum that is sweeping us along into the play offs. Just as teams around us are looking jaded after a long season Boro are locking into real form. Promotion form. Another Boro win at Portman Road and Aston Villa will not be looking forward to our head to heads.

Up The Boro

Middlesbrough 2-0 Millwall – Britt, Howson

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