Middlesbrough 3 Brentford 0 (5-1 agg): Boro book Wembley place in style

Middlesbrough's Lee Tomlin scores his team's first goal against Brentford. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
Middlesbrough's Lee Tomlin scores his team's first goal against Brentford. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
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NOT bad for a set-piece team who offer a bit on the counter-attack.

The pre-match words of Brentford defender Harlee Dean proved somewhat ill-advised as Middlesbrough, whose qualities were derided by the visiting player, booked a Wembley berth for the first time since 1998.

Three moments of open-play quality took the Teessiders potentially within 90 minutes of a return to the Premier League after a six-year absence, with Lee Tomlin scoring one and creating two others and displaying the contribution of a craftsman.

A memorable piece of skill from Tomlin bamboozled Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany of all people in Boro’s shock FA Cup fourth-round victory at the Etihad in January and he produced another sublime moment to put Boro in front last night.

He then set up the killer second from Kike in the 55th minute, which triggered a raucous chant of “We’re Going to Wembley” from the delirious Boro supporters, who drunk it all in.

The coup de grace arrived when majestic inter-play by the outstanding Tomlin and Adomah was finished by the latter after a classy interchange on 78 minutes.

That was the cue for Ironic chants of ‘Boring Boro’ from home fans following a display which won awards for artisitic merit as well as trademark diligence.

The White Rose standard may be currently flying in the top-flight courtesy of Hull City, but it is hanging by a thread on the flagpole – and the North Riding may yet provide a Broad Acres solution in the big time if the Tigers demotion is confirmed by May 24.

Plenty of work to do at Wembley, a venue where Boro have never won, remains to be negotiated yet, but they head into the final in nine days time with confidence levels restored after a dispiriting end to the regular season which saw them beaten to automatic promotion by Bournemouth and Watford.

On a night when a sell-out Riverside crowd was akin to being acquainted with an old friend, Boro lit up the Teesside skyline, quite literally at times with home supporters using torch apps on their phones to illuminate proceedings in a final 35 minutes when it was party time.

Boro head coach Aitor Karanka, in his first full season at the club, may have been pictured visiting Flamingo Land last weekend, but thankfully there was no Riverside rollercoaster as Boro reached the final with relative ease.

And Karanka’s side even managed to seal the deal without attacking talisman and Championship player of the year Patrick Bamford, struggling with an ankle problem, who started from the bench with Kike taking his place.

Despite the blow of Bamford not starting, Boro’s other chief source of attacking ingenuity in Tomlin applied some first-half balm by way of a sumptuous 23rd-minute curled strike which smacked of Premier League quality to ease home nerves.

It was an eye-catching moment, with Adam Clayton starting the move with a sweeping ball to the lively Abomah on the right.

The winger beat his man before squaring to Tomlin, who showed a true mark of class to take aim with an exquisite right-footed shot from 20 yards out which beat David Button all ends up.

It was a half where chances were hard to come by on a slick surface moistened by the steady drizzle, but it was Boro who critically took theirs.

Both sides took to the field to a wall of noise with the Riverside packed to the rafters, save for a few gaps in the visiting section.

It was a sweet and welcome rewind to the big-game atmospheres during Boro’s against-all-odds run to the final of the Uefa Cup in 2005-06, with the home hordes in the North Stand displaying a card mosaic with the simple message of ‘Believe’ just before the kick-off.

The first effort of note arrived from Brentford with Jota’s low effort comfortably dealt with by Dimi Konstantopoulos, but by and large, it was Boro who dominated the early exchanges without manufacturing the chance they craved despite decent approach play.

When they did, it was dispatched with aplomb by Tomlin and aside from a half-decent headed opportunity for Andre Gray which he couldn’t convert, disciplined Boro saw things out until half-time with a fair degree of comfort.

Boasting the best defensive statistics in the Championship, Boro showed exactly why in the first period with the Bees – a strong side on the road in 2014-15 – assigned with the stiff task of cracking the code on the restart.

The Bees almost breached the iron backline early on the restart with Moses Odubajo’s fine low cross just failing to be turned in by Gray, the prelude to the Londoners’ most imposing spell.

But it proved fleeting with Boro going two in front on 55 minutes to finish the tie.

Tomlin’s pass found Jelle Vossen, with his effort blocked and the loose ball latched onto and tucked home high into the net by Kike.

Adomah went close to a third before getting the goal his performance deserved 12 minutes from time after a stunning exchange of passes with Tomlin, handed a standing ovation when he was substituted.

Adomah said: “Today is down to everyone on the pitch and all the subs. Everyone defended well and attacked well.

“But the job is not done yet. We need to go to Wembley and win against Ipswich or Norwich

“I don’t mind who we face, because I haven’t played at Wembley before. Everyone is looking forward to it.”

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Whitehead, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, Leadbitter (Woodgate 90); Adomah, Tomlin (Forshaw 82), Vossen; Kike (Reach 68). Unused substitutes: Ripley, Amorebieta, Nsue, Bamford.

Brentford: Button; Odubajo, Dean, Tarkowski, Bidwell (Dallas 60); Diagouraga (Long 71), Douglas; Jota (Toral 60), Pritchard, Judge; Gray. Unused substitutes: Craig, McCormack, Bonham, Smith.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).