Middlesbrough 3 Leeds United 4: A game of the season and moment of the season contender from Crysencio Summerville as Leeds return to second after a Championship thriller

A MEETING of these sides at the Riverside in the autumn of 2015 saw a Save Our Steel protest by Middlesbrough followers as they showed their support full-square behind the steelworkers at the SSI plant in nearby Redcar.

Judging by the noise surrounding their own team’s alarming recent on-pitch form when it truly matters in a season, agitated Leeds United fans were sending the equivalent of an SOS ahead of kick-off.

Save our season - or more specifically save our season from extending into the dreaded play-offs which arrive with a health warning for everyone connected with Leeds.

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This game certainly came with a health warning. There were thrills, spills and bellyaches and five goals in a mad first half, just as there were in the opening period of a similarly pulsating basketball match in the reverse fixture at Elland Road.

Leeds United's Crysencio Summerville (left) celebrates scoring their side's fourth goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Middlesbrough. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.Leeds United's Crysencio Summerville (left) celebrates scoring their side's fourth goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Middlesbrough. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.
Leeds United's Crysencio Summerville (left) celebrates scoring their side's fourth goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Middlesbrough. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

The pre-match conjecture centred on whether Boro would be pragmatic and play five at the back and choke up the space against Leeds and follow the recent tactics of Sunderland and Blackburn.

In the event, they stayed with four at the back and and kept true to their own instincts and gave it a right go.

It made for cracking entertainment, but in the final analysis, it suited Leeds who found the gaps and licence to paint their own pictures going forward and their prize is a return to second place.

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They can heap the pressure further on Ipswich Town by winning at QPR on Friday.

The key moment in the game arrived on 62 minutes with Leeds 3-2 up.

A break was finished off beautifully by Crysencio Summerville, who took his tally to 20 for the season with a brace to provide Leeds with daylight en route to just a second win in six matches.

The celebrations with the travelling contingent nearby were joyous. It felt big.

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Not that Boro were finished. Latte Lath’s deft header - his second of the game and fourth of the season against Leeds - set up a grandstand finish.

Boro almost levelled in what turned out to be one of the games of the season, but Leeds had their win. Just.

Boro’s play-off tilt is now mathematically over. The consolation is they went down fighting.

The hosts made changes at full-backs with Luke Ayling ineligible against his parent club and Lukas Engel also injured with Anfernee Dijksteel making a rare start and Luke Thomas also coming in.

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Leeds brought in Sam Byram and the big call up top saw Bamford get the nod against his former club with Joel Piroe dropped to the bench.

A strong first-half performance, including a goal, justified the selection of Patrick Bamford, who netted a hat-trick in Boro colours in this fixture a few years back.

For Boro, Dijksteel would concede a penalty.

A breathless half of fun in front of a big Teesside crowd and a throbbing atmosphere got going on seven minutes.

Thomas hustled Willy Gnonto off the ball. A clever flick from Finn Azaz, who had an excellent first half, got a faint deflection off Ilia Gruev to dissect Leeds and Latte Lath bore down on goal after getting away from Joe Rodon.

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Illan Meslier raced out to block and the loose ball was latched onto by Isaiah Jones, who cashed in on a split-second of hesitancy from Junior Firpo to tap the ball into the empty net and crown his recently-signed new contract.

Latte Lath received treatment following the goal, but carried on.

Boasting just one win in five matches beforehand, it was just the start Leeds did not want. They were feeling a bit better about things soon after.

They levelled when Dijksteel ball-watched for a moment and allowed Georgio Rutter to get away before bringing home down with a clumsy back-tracking challenge with Tony Harrington pointing to the spot.

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No arguments this time as Bamford passed the ball to Summerville, who finished from the penalty for his 19th goal of the season.

Soon after, Bamford had his moment in front of supporters who used to sing out his name with gusto..

A great cross from the left from Junior Firpo was not dealth with by Boro’s backline and more especially Seny Dieng, who escaped others to clear with his challenge being meek with the ball going into the net off Bamford’s thigh.

It was relieving for Leeds after another hugely eventful start.

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But with Azaz showing just why Boro wanted him so much in the winter and Latte Lath being a threat, the hosts had weapons on their own.

They levelled on the half-hour. Lewis O’Brien nicked the ball off Rutter from a throw and more perceptive, clever play from Azaz found Latte Lath, who cut inside and then swivelled and saw his shot beat Meslier.

You wondered what was next and it was a Leeds goal, albeit a controversial one..

A super driving run by Archie Gray put Boro on the back foot. He found Summerville, whose smart reverse pass found Gnonto, with replays showing that he was offside.

He buried the ball into the net to put Leeds back in front.

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There could have been even more goals in a manic first half. Earlier Dieng did well to dent Bamford, while Sammy Silvera tested Meslier low down.

The game at Elland Road was rather quieter in the second half and you wondered if order would return in this latest instalment. Farke wouldn’t have minded it, while Boro had little to lose with their play-off hopes all but over.

Initially, it was before Meslier was forced into work to tip over O’Brien’s goalbound cross in the nick of time.

The next big development took the game away from Boro and was a glorious one in the troubled spell for Leeds.

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Greuv won the ball initially and Firpo took it on and surged forward before neatly slotting in Summerville, who wonderfully did the rest. He cut inside and his right-footed curler was exquisite to take him up to 20 goals for the season.

That looked to be that. Only for Latte Lath to head in following Gilbert’s deep cross for his seventh goal in six games and 16th of the campaign.

Bangura and Howson went close as Boro threw the kitchen sink at Leeds. The visitors held on.

Middlesbrough: Dieng; Dijksteel (Gilbert 68), Van den Berg, Clarke, Thomas (Bangura 68); Howson, O’Brien (Barlaser 76); I Jones, Azaz, Silvera (Matthews 86); Latte Lath. Unused substitutes: J Jones, Connor, Hoppe, Lennon, McCabe.

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Leeds United: Meslier; Byram, Rodon, Ampadu, Firpo; Gray, Greuv; Gnonto (James 80), Rutter (Kamara 80), Summerville; Bamford (Piroe 74). Unused substitutes: Darlow, Cooper, Anthony, Shackleton, Geldardt, Joseph.

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