Middlesbrough 2 MK Dons 0: Downing ends six-year wait

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.

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Stewart Downing scored his first Middlesbrough goal in six years as the Teessiders stormed to a 2-0 victory at home to MK Dons.

The former England winger returned to the Riverside in the summer after a six-year absence and re-opened his account for hometown club Boro.

Downing grabbed the opening goal with just 20 minutes to go - his first Boro strike since February 2009 - as MK Dons came close to frustrating Aitor Karanka’s side.

Striker David Nugent also scored his first goal of the season after joining the hosts from Leicester to give them maximum points.

There was no place in the squad for Boro’s new Uruguayan winger Carlos de Pena, a £2.6m transfer deadline-day signing from Nacional, as Karanka opted to start with Downing and Adam Reach on the flanks.

The early drizzle started to clear just as the home side created the first opening of the game in the 15th minute.

Downing charged down the right and whipped a good ball into the box, but when MK Dons only half cleared, it fell to Reach just inside the area and his powerful shot was brilliantly saved by David Martin.

Grant Leadbitter forced another fine save from Martin when the Boro captain drilled a low 25-yard effort which the MK Dons keeper stopped and then gathered at the second attempt.

The visitors had Martin to thank again just before the half-hour mark when he was on hand to deny Boro for a third time inside 15 minutes. Dons failed to clear a corner and the ball fell fortuitously to Leadbitter but Martin blocked his strong shot on the line.

After a dull start to the second half, the game sprang to life in the 58th minute when the visitors came closest to opening the scoring.

Jordan Spence found substitute Simon Church with a smart throughball and the former Charlton striker chipped Dimi Konstantopoulos superbly but the ball came back off the post and Boro cleared.

Then on the hour referee Jeremy Simpson awarded the home side a free-kick just a few yards from goal after Martin picked up Kyle McFadzean’s back-pass, but Leadbitter fired his poor set-piece straight at the defensive wall.

Although Dons cleared the danger, Boro kept up the pressure and Daniel Ayala headed off target before sub Christian Stuani poked a shot just wide.

The opener came in the 70th minute when Downing advanced towards the edge of the box, took a quick glance and chipped a superb, curling effort over Martin’s right shoulder and into the bottom corner.

Downing came close to another six minutes later when he tried to steer a free-kick around the wall but Martin tipped it round for a corner.

But Boro got their second in the 81st minute when Nugent pounced on a loose ball before coolly slotting left-footed under the sprawling Martin to seal the win.

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