X-FACTOR winner and Middlesbrough-born singer James Arthur was introduced to the Teesside public at half-time – but it was Boro who hit the right notes at the Riverside for once.
A difficult week for the North East club ended on a pleasant note with a little bit of Veno, nickname of caretaker-manager Mark Venus, who boosted his claims for the full-time job following the sacking of Tony Mowbray.
Ayresome Park and the Riverside have hardly been kind for Doncaster Rovers, without a win on Teesside since a 4-1 Peter Doherty-inspired FA Cup success in February 1952, on the day that George VI died.
Boro, inspired by two-goal Albert Adomah, Mustapha Carayol, Kei Kamara and Marvin Emnes, produced an at times regal performance as they started life without part of the club’s royalty in Mowbray.
Rovers had fleeting moments of promise, particularly at the start of the second half, but it was Boro’s night in a game billed as the Spirit of Teesside in an attempt to showcase the best of the local area – ironically minus the presence of a flagbearer in Saltburn-born Mowbray.
The South Yorkshire club had the bad fortune to face hosts with their big guns still on deck in Tuncay Sanli and Robert Huth in their defeat at Boro early in the 2009-10 campaign following the Teessiders’ relegation.
The fact that Boro had so much to prove in front of a season-best crowd of 21,882 – the best at the Riverside in 2013 – and a televised audience last night probably did not do Rovers any favours either as they suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time this season.
They could have few complaints with Boro’s front four running them ragged at times with the display resembling the home side’s fine televised performance against Sheffield Wednesday on a Friday night almost a year ago when a 3-1 win took them top of the Championship.
Caretaker-boss Venus wielded the axe making six changes following last weekend’s loss at Barnsley, a game which proved the death knell for Mowbray’s Boro tenure.
It was a boyhood fan in the shape of Guisborough-born James Coppinger who fired the game’s first chance wide after the home defence were caught napping.
But the Teesside public, who took advantage of a cut-price ticket offer to attend, did not have long to wait for an opener, providing a dream start for Venus on eight minutes.
It arrived in exquisite fashion with an instinctive reverse pass from Kei Kamara dissecting the Rovers rearguard and Adomah raced clear before lobbing the stranded visiting goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, making his return to the Riverside, for a top-drawer opener.
An open start saw Coppinger and Mark Duffy then strut their stuff along with livewires Adomah and Carayol, with the latter soon testing the reactions of Turnbull with a fierce low strike, Rob Jones then hacking away the loose ball.
Clearly in the mood, Carayol was next to threaten when he blazed over after a quality move involving himself, Kamara and Adomah with Rovers again at full-stretch at the back.
After a bright start, Rovers, who handed a place on the bench to loan signing Yun Suk Young – a South Korean left-back who joined in time for kick-off on loan from QPR – were increasingly in danger of being overrun at the hands of Boro’s fluid attack with the pressure eventually telling on 35 minutes.
Moments after a heavy touch let him down when through on goal, local lad Richie Smallwood provided a more choice contribution with his fine cross latched onto by the unmarked Adomah, whose bouncing downward header beat Turnbull.
Despite a chastening period of play, Rovers were still in proceedings, just, with Stockton-born Jones within inches of reducing the arrears just before the break following a cracking corner from Duffy.
Carayol then went close to a killer third before the break.
Rovers, who sent on Suk-Young for Paul Quinn, who had a torrid first half, pressed early in the second half without managing a breakthrough, their best moment seeing Robinson’s shot saved.
At the other end, Smallwood went close before Daniel Ayala saw an effort cleared from the goalline.
Kamara then made the game safe for the home side at the near post with a downward volley on 67 minutes following Leadbitter’s free-kick.
Emnes – twice – and Kamara spurned opportunities and Chris Brown went close to a consolation goal for Doncaster before home debutant Ayala headed in a fourth goal for Boro following Leadbitter’s corner eight minutes from time.
Middlesbrough: Steele; R Williams, Woodgate, Ayala, Gibson; Adomah (Varga 89), Leadbitter, Smallwood, Carayol (Butterfield 82); Kamara (Main 86), Emnes. Unused substitutes: Leutwiler, Friend, Jutkiewicz, Hines.
Doncaster Rovers: Turnbull, Quinn (Suk-Young 46), Khumalo, Jones, Wabara; Coppinger, Keegan, Furman (Cotterill 75), Duffy; Brown, Robinson.Unused substitutes: Maxted, McCullough, De Val Fernandez, Peterson.
Referee: M Naylor (South Yorkshire).