MIDDLESBROUGH ended Rotherham United’s five-match unbeaten run in emphatic fashion with three unanswered goals against the ten-man Millers at a packed New York Stadium.
Goals inside the first twenty minutes from Patrick Bamford, his third of the campaign after joining on loan from Chelsea and a first strike for the club from Yanick Wildschut put the Teessiders firmly in the box seat and late third from sub Lee Tomlin completed a good day at the office for Aitor Karanka’s men.
In the side’s first league in Rotherham since October 1986, it was Boro supporters who had all the reasons to smile as they extended their unbeaten sequence against the Millers to nine matches.
The Millers misery was compounded by a red card for replacement Jordan Bowery in the 29th minute, just three minutes after coming on for the injured Alex Revell.
Rotherham manager Steve Evans described the sending-off of Bowery just four minutes and 18 seconds after coming on as a substitute as “an absolutely shocking, awful, woeful, disgraceful, abject decision”.
While Evans did not argue with Boro’s victory, heaping praise on the quality of their performance, he had no hesitation at pointing the finger following Bowery’s red card.
Evans said: “Are we going to go away remembering the game and the quality of the Middlesbrough team? I said before the game they are a quality side.
“We go away remembering an absolutely shocking, awful, woeful, disgraceful, abject decision to send Jordan Bowery off.
“There are no other words I can use for it. We’ve looked back at it and I would not apportion blame to the match referee if he is told that someone has kicked out by an assistant, he should go off.
“But that assistant is known to us as a management team: we have to ask first and foremost why he is appointed and when he was appointed we feared what would happen and it’s happened today.
“There is not even a case for a yellow card. You look at reaction from players and reaction from the Boro bench - they are a real professional outfit - and one or two of their players and staff apologised to me in the tunnel at half time about the sending off so they know. That has been a wrongful decision.
“We have to let the authorities look at that when we appeal on Monday and see where it goes.”
Karanka did not attach such importance to the sending-off, saying: “I think when this happened we were winning 2-0 and I don’t think it is a very big important thing.”
He did though heap praise on Wildschut who was making his first start.
“He kept working very well because all the players understand the philosophy,” he said.
“He scored the goal, crossed very well worked very well and this is the way and I think he is going home happy today.”
Both sides provided encouragement for their fans in the early sparrings, with Jonson Clarke-Harris, spying his third successive goal in games at the New York Stadium, heading off target inside the first thirty seconds following Ben Pringle’s cross.
Play soon switched to the other end, with Boro starting to knock the ball about with aplomb as the tone was set and their big following did not have to wait long for a breakthrough.
It came on eight minutes when dithering inside his own area from Paul Green was seized upon by Bamford with the loan striker - a target of Steve Evans earlier this year - gathering the ball before turning adroitly and firing home a low shot past the grasp of Adam Collin, who could not keep the effort out.
Soon after, some scuffles broke out in the home end close to the Boro contingent with several fans ejected with it appearing that some away supporters were mixed in with the Millers fans - before the stewards restored order.
Kirk Broadfoot, playing at left-back in place of the suspended Joe Skarz, then bundled the ball wide at the far post following an inswinging corner from Paul Taylor before Boro doubled their tally on 19 minutes.
A polished move ended with Grant Leadbitter threading the ball through to Wildschut on the right and former Dutch under-21 international cut inside in fine style before uinleashing an unstoppable shot high past Collin for an eye-catching second.
A bad day then got worse for the Millers when Alex Revell went down with what looked a nasty head injury close to the centre circle and received lengthy attention with a stretcher called onto the pitch.
After a lengthy delay, the big striker managed to get to his feet, but clearly looking groggy and out of sorts, he was soon replaced by Bowery.
But within four minutes, Bowery, like Revell, exited the fray but for an entirely different reason.
Bowery saw red after penalised for kicking out on George Friend following a tangle for the boot, with the offence spotted by the assistant referee.
Referee Russell then proceeded to give the forward his marching orders, despite protests from Millers players and howls of derision from seething home supporters.
It put the tin lid on a tough first period for the Millers and the mountain they had to climb could have got ins if Spanish striker Kike had converted two excellent chances which he ballooned off target in front of goal after great work by the impressive Wildschut.
Leadbitter also saw a deflected shot flash just wide, with the half ending with Boro playing keep ball, with the insurance of possessing the extra man.
Still, at 2-0, the Millers had a sniff of getting back into proceedings as long as they maanged to score the next goal.
At the interval, Evans played his final hand with a double change with former Boro midfielder and boyhood fan Richie Smallwood coming on for Paul Taylor and striker Matt Derbyshire entering the fray for Ben Pringle.
To their credit, the hosts went at Boro on the restart, with home supporters suddenly starting to make themselves heard as they started to sense a rally.
A well-struck shot from Lee Frecklington was turned away by Konstantopoulos before Clarke-Harris was just off target moments later.
Given their numerical advantage and fact they had to chase the game, it potentially left the Millers vulnerable to the counter-attack, with Boro, backed by a 2,600 following, going close to sealing soon after.
Kike, not having the best of days in front of goal, was played in before seeing his shot beaten away by Collin, with the Millers custodian then denying the £2.7m striker again after more neat Boro interplay.
A vital clearance from home captain Craig Morgan in the nick of time denied Boro a certain third with Bamford lurking in front of goal after more probing, slick play from the visitors.
After some early intensity from the Millers, the game slipped back into the format of most of the first half, with Boro enjoying plenty of the ball and the territorial dominance.
Daniel Ayala went close to a third, stabbing the ball just wide after the ball broke to him after Adam Clayton’s shot was diverted towards him following a corner.
Appelas for handball at the other end then fell on deaf ears to add to the hosts frustration, although they survived a scare not long after, when Bamford was within inches of converting Wildschut’s centre.
A considerable lull in play followed with Boro happy to stroke the ball around and wait for their opportunity to kill the game.
That almost arrived with eight minutes to go when a cross from Wildschut was latched onto by Jelle Vossen, whose instant connection flew wide and moments later, the Millers almost punished Boro’s second-half profligacy in front of goal.
The ball found its way to Derbyshire, with Boro’s defence momentarily switching off and with Konstantopoulos to beat, he saw his low shot hit the near post.
Gloss was then applied for Boro in the 87th minute when substitute Tomlin received the ball on the left before cutting inside and evading several players in a slaloming run before firing home a pinpoint low shot past the stranded Collin.
Rotherham United: Collin; Richardson, Morgan, Arnason, Broadfoot; Taylor (Smallwood 45), Green, Frecklington, Pringle (Derbyshire 45); Revell (Bowery 26), Clarke-Harris. Unused substitutes: Loach, Hall, Milsom, Swift.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend (Husband 88); Wildschut, Clayton, Leadbitter, Reach; Kike (Tomlin 60), Bamford (Vossen 73). Unused substitutes: Mejias, Veljkovic, Whitehead, Fredericks.