Middlesbrough FC 3 Hull City 1: Tigers floored by scintillating Boro riposte as Chuba Akpom equals record and Isaiah Jones inspires hosts

MIDDLESBROUGH'S previous win over Hull City back on November 1 was a landmark one for Michael Carrick, his maiden victory as head coach on a night when the Teessiders moved a point clear of the relegation zone.

A reflection of the staggering journey that his Boro side have made since is that this latest triumph over the Tigers - just 25 Championship games on and by the same scoreline - has virtually secured them play-off participation following a tenth win in their past 12 Riverside appointments.

"Another easy one", quipped his City counterpart Liam Rosenior ahead of his side’s latest date with a promotion aspirant.

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The dry humour of the young head coach extended to jesting that he might consider calling his assistant Andy Dawson out of retirement due to his a very extensive injury absentee list, which featured three frontline strikers, including his top-scorer.

Boro's Chuba Akpom scores the third goal against Hull. Picture: Tony Johnson.Boro's Chuba Akpom scores the third goal against Hull. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Boro's Chuba Akpom scores the third goal against Hull. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Despite their issues, the Tigers - for whom teenager Harry Vaughan had a ball - made it look easy in the first half, only to be swamped in the second period as Boro reacted as all good sides do as City's wait for a first away victory since January 2 goes on.

A smart goal from Allahyar Sayyadmanesh - following up his recent goal up the coast at Sunderland - shortly before the break crowned a very smart half from Hull, who were quicker, sharper and more polished than the hosts after taking them on at their own intricate passing game through the thirds and looking the part.

The break came at a timely juncture for the Teessiders. They made two changes and the arrival of Isaiah Jones in particular proved the catalyst for their scintillating riposte which yielded three goals in six madcap minutes as Hull went to pieces after Boro matched up with them and the game was over by just after the hour mark.

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Speaking this week, Carrick said that Jones might be a better player in the long run for his extended spell 'observing' away from the starting XI. His fine cameo here suggests he might have a point.

A pinpoint delivery from Jones following a slide-rule pass from Chuba Akpom helped get Boro on terms as Hayden Hackney followed up his strike on Friday with an encore.

A few minutes later, Cameron Archer shrugged off the attentions of City defender Sean McLoughlin, who got too far too tight from Zach Steffen's punt forward and gobbled up a strikers' second.

Few expected that ex-Hull loanee Akpom would not come to the party at some point and so it proved as his goal tally moved up to an outstanding 29 for 2022-23.

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Boro went through the gears with Jones rewinding the clock to happier times last term in setting up the division's top marksman who made history by scoring for a ninth successive home league match in the Championship. The last person to achieve that feat at this level was Kevin Phillips a quarter of a century ago.

It was all a far cry from a difficult first half for the hosts.

An early chance which saw Hackney and Marcus Forss exchange passes and the latter see his thumping drive strike the near post did not perturb Hull.

The sight of former Tigers player Forss cutting inside on the right following an initial error from Vaughan and be thwarted by a fine full-stretch save from Karl Darlow did not either.

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As good as they can be going forward, Boro give opponents a chance going the other way and Hull - perhaps emboldened by not conceding early on - started to play the ball around with smartness and confidence.

Vaughan posed problems himself as Boro struggled to get their trademark passing game going.

The teenager combined neatly with another to catch the eye in Regan Slater, whose strike was kept out at his near post by Steffen.

At the other end, Akpom was kept quiet, while one dangerous moment in isolation from Archer saw him drive a shot inches wide with Darlow beaten. Form is temporary, class is permanent.

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Straightaway, Steffen blocked from Slater, but the American was soon beaten, courtesy of Sayyadmanesh’s clever header from Traore's corner.

The likes of Seri, Traore, Slater and Vaughan had excelled in the opening half, but Boro's power game changed that as Hull's midfield disappeared, alongside their attacking threat and sense of defensive order.

That's what leading sides do and after the goals blitz, there were more chances for Akpom, Archer and Matt Crooks as Boro - who hit five in their previous home game - again threatened a hatful. Funny old game.

Middlesbrough: Steffen; Smith (Dijksteel 45), McNair (Crooks 69), Lenihan, Giles; Howson, Mowatt (Barlaser 82); Forss (I Jones 45), Akpom, Hackney; Archer. Substitutes unused: Roberts, Muniz, Bola.

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Hull City: Darlow; Coyle, McLoughlin, Greaves, Elder; Seri (Docherty 72), Slater; Sayaadmanesh (Longman 73), Vaughan (Tufan 65), Pelkas (Simons 85); Traore (Woods 85). Substitutes unused: Ingram, Taylor.

Referee: A Davies (Hants).