Scott McDonald’s brace helped Middlesbrough recover from back-to-back defeats as they recorded a convincing win over an out-of-sorts Huddersfield Town.
Boro’s impressive start to the campaign had hit a snag when they suffered successive losses to Cardiff and Bristol City, but they got back to winning ways in front of nearly 22,000 at the Riverside.
With Marvin Emnes and Ishmael Miller both on the bench, McDonald repaid manager Tony Mowbray’s faith in starting him by stabbing home the opener.
Only the crossbar denied the hosts a second before the break as Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies pushed Peter Clarke’s hacked clearance onto the bar.
Lukas Jutkiewicz and McDonald continued to cause the visitors’ back four problems but it was Emmanuel Ledesma who got the second goal with a dipping free-kick just after the hour mark.
McDonald then fired in his second of the evening, Jutkiewicz once again providing the assist, to extend Huddersfield’s winless streak to three games.
It was Huddersfield who were the more impressive starters.
After a couple of speculative efforts went wide, Jack Hunt’s mazy run culminated in a vicious left-foot strike which just whistled over the crossbar.
But it was Boro who struck first in the 28th minute. Justin Hoyte burst into the box from his right-back berth and rolled the ball to Jutkiewicz, who in turn fired across goal where McDonald produced a predatory finish.
Just before the break, Jutkiewicz kept his head down when embarking on a run and was oblivious to the fact nobody in a red shirt was near his cut across, yet Clarke sliced his clearance towards goal and Smithies had to palm the ball on to the crossbar.
McDonald and Jutkiewicz almost combined to devastating effect once more minutes after the break but the latter dallied when the chance materialised, allowing Smithies to save.
After 55 minutes, Town manager Simon Grayson introduced Adam Hammill and Chris Atkinson.
It did not prevent Boro’s front two from threatening their goal once more, however, as Jutkiewicz displayed great strength to turn away from two men before teeing up McDonald, who smashed wide. The hosts did not have to wait much longer, though, to double their advantage as Ledesma curled in a magical free-kick.
The Argentinian earned the set piece himself, when he cajoled Paul Dixon into tripping him, and his curling effort dipped so low that Smithies could only push it into his net.
Five minutes from time, Jutkiewicz’s header down was drilled home by McDonald.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Hines, Bikey, Halliday (Parnaby 90), Ledesma (Zemmama 87), Bailey, McEachran, Smallwood, McDonald, Jutkiewicz (Miller 87). Unused substitutes: Leutwiler,Thomson,Emnes,Luke Williams.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Hunt, Lynch, P Clarke, Dixon, Ward, Norwood (Atkinson 54), Arfield, Robinson (Hammill 54), Church, Novak (Lee 68). Unused substitutes: Bennett,Woods,Gerrard,Wallace.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).