High times: Why Middlesbrough sealed their return to the Premier League

Middlesbrough celebrate their promotion to the Premier League after the Sky Bet Championship match at the Riverside Stadium. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
Middlesbrough celebrate their promotion to the Premier League after the Sky Bet Championship match at the Riverside Stadium. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
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SEVEN years outside the Premier League has seen Middlesbrough suffer years of Championship mid-table mediocrity, followed by Wembley heartache less than 12 months ago.

But Boro have finally managed promotion back to England’s top division.

Middlesbrough's Cristhian Stuani (centre) celebrates after scoring his side's promotion-clinching goal against Brighton. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA.

Middlesbrough's Cristhian Stuani (centre) celebrates after scoring his side's promotion-clinching goal against Brighton. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA.

Here, we look at the key moments which have seen Middlesbrough reach their long-awaited goal this season.

Wembley Woes

Play-Off final defeat to Norwich last season was a really tough pill to swallow for both fans and players alike. The question pre season was how would the club react? Would there be a hangover? One defeat in their first 10 games proved Boro meant business.

Fortress Riverside

Middlesbrough Grant Leadbetter lifts the cup with Aitor Karanka. Picture: PA.

Middlesbrough Grant Leadbetter lifts the cup with Aitor Karanka. Picture: PA.

Making your own ground a difficult place to visit is always key to a side’s success and Middlesbrough have been a tough nut to crack at home this season having only lost two games to Bristol City and Nottingham Forest all season.

Best defence in the league

It was the backbone of Boro’s promotion push last season and this season the misely duo of Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson were at it again with Middlesbrough boasting the best defence in the league, conceding 31 goals without losing a game in which they were in partnership together.

Christmas cracker

Middlesbrough put together a run of form over the Christmas period which really signalled their intentions and made them the team to beat. Along the way they despatched promotion rivals including Ipswich, Burnley, Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday, as well as a earning a 0-0 draw against Birmingham.

New Year Derby delight

Middlesbrough headed into the new year top of the Championship when Derby visited the Riverside in what was seen at the time as a season-defining game with both chasing automatic promotion. Boro won 2-0 thanks to goals from Albert Adomah and George Friend with fans really starting to believe this was their season.

January recruitment

Steve Gibson opened up his cheque book with the signing of Blackburn Rovers’ Jordan Rhodes, a move which was expected to propel Boro to promotion. He didn’t quite get the glut of goals expected, but with goals at crucial times he justified his price tag. Gaston Ramirez was also a key signing, chipping in with seven goals and numerous assists.

Karanka walk out

Following defeat to Rotherham in March, Middlesbrough’s season looked set to unravel with Aitor Karanka incredibly walking out on his team before a match against Charlton which they subsequently lost. However, he settled his differences and his side won the next six league games in a row.

Last-minute winners

Leaving it late became a habit for Boro, with David Nugent scoring at the death against Hull City. It was a huge moment inBoro’s first game since the Karanka furore and one which really seemed to galvanise players and fans alike. Adam Forshaw’s dramatic winner against Reading and Jordan Rhodes’s late double against Bolton were just as influential.

Final-day drama

Billed as the £170m shoot-out between Boro and Brighton, Cristhian Stuani got Boro off to the perfect start going 1-0 up. Brighton’s Dale Stephens went from hero to villain for the visitors, he equalised but then got sent off minutes later following a high challenge on Gaston Ramirez which saw the Uruguayan stretchered off. Boro then held on for the point which saw them promoted.