Chuba Akpom steers managerless Middlesbrough out of Championship relegation zone

Managerless Middlesbrough climbed out of the Championship’s relegation zone by beating Birmingham 1-0 in the first game since Chris Wilder’s departure.

With the search for Wilder’s replacement ongoing following his exit on Monday, striker Chuba Akpom powered in the winning goal in the 23rd minute to earn Boro victory for only the third time this season.

It was a victory that lifted Middlesbrough up to 18th in the Sky Bet Championship and above Birmingham, whose four match unbeaten run came to an end at the Riverside.

Boro got their rewards midway through the opening half.

Middlesbrough's Chuba Akpom (right) celebrates scoring their side's winner against Birmingham (Picture: PA)Middlesbrough's Chuba Akpom (right) celebrates scoring their side's winner against Birmingham (Picture: PA)
Middlesbrough's Chuba Akpom (right) celebrates scoring their side's winner against Birmingham (Picture: PA)
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Ryan Giles’ corner hit the back of Birmingham defender Auston Trusty at the back post and the loose ball fell invitingly for Akpom to fire in his third of the season.

There were also efforts from Matt Crooks and McNair to worry the Blues, and yet Birmingham would have been level had Middlesbrough goalkeeper Zack Steffen not stopped Scott Hogan’s effort after Anfernee Dijksteel’s poor back pass.

Hogan lifted a side-footed first time effort over, but Middlesbrough did enough to thwart the majority of advances.

Emmanuel Longelo’s curling free-kick from 25 yards looked like it was flying into the top corner when Steffen turned it over.

Middlesbrough's Duncan Watmore (left) and Birmingham City's Dion Sanderson battle for the ball (Picture: PA)Middlesbrough's Duncan Watmore (left) and Birmingham City's Dion Sanderson battle for the ball (Picture: PA)
Middlesbrough's Duncan Watmore (left) and Birmingham City's Dion Sanderson battle for the ball (Picture: PA)
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Rodrigo Muniz headed against the crossbar for Middlesbrough, while substitute Marcus Forss had the rebound in the net but from an offside position.

Middlesbrough: Steffen, McNair, Fry, Bola, Dijksteel (Smith 82), Crooks, Howson, Hackney (McGree 63), Giles (Lenihan 70), Akpom (Forss 70), Rodrigo Muniz (Watmore 82). Unused substitutes: Mowatt, Roberts.

Birmingham: Ruddy, Colin (James 88), Sanderson, Trusty, Graham, Bielik (Hall 79), Chong (Bellingham 88), Longelo, Bacuna (Mejbri 46), Deeney (Jutkiewicz 79), Hogan. Unused substitutes: Etheridge, Leko.

Referee: M Salisbury (Lancashire).