Middlesbrough sprung a surprise on promotion hopefuls West Brom at The Hawthorns as they claimed a deserved 2-0 victory over the Championship’s leaders.
Daniel Ayala nodded the visitors in front in the 17th minute before Ashley Fletcher rounded off the performance with a quite astounding goal from all of 35 yards, deep into second-half stoppage time.
This was Boro’s third league win in a row, and their first away from the Riverside.
Jonathan Woodgate, who was without a number of first-choice players at The Hawthorns, fielded a young side but got the display he asked of them, as they denied their hosts and took advantage at the other end.
Still, the former defender called for level heads. “Let’s not get carried away. We’re keeping our feet on the ground. We’ve got Preston on New Year’s Day so that’ll be a real test,” he said.
“It’s a top result against a real top team who will probably go on to win promotion.
“We’ve changed shape regularly this season, but I felt it was important we dealt with (Matheus) Pereira. He’s their best player by a mile, so I thought he had to nullify him by putting the two holding midfielders around him.
“We only had one day to work on this shape but we showed them videos of exactly what we wanted. On the break we looked really really dangerous, and we nullified their threat.
“Not too many teams will come here and do that. We weren’t coming into the game struggling, we just needed that win.”
West Brom: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, Hegazi, Ferguson (Townsend 46), Barry (Krovinovic 60), Livermore, Phillips, Matheus Pereira, Edwards (Austin 46), Robson-Kanu. Unused substitutes: Bartley, Brunt, Sawyers, Bond.
Middlesbrough: Pears, Howson, Ayala, Fry, Coulson, Clayton, Saville, Spence (Johnson 78), Wing (Gestede 87), Tavernier, Fletcher. Unused substitutes: Mejias, Wood-Gordon, Bola, O’Neill, Liddle.
Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne & Wear).