The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

And five cor­ners would fol­low be­fore Boro took first blood. An­other in­swinger met the head of Miller, who glanced home.

Miller’s slide rule pass found McDon­ald, his shot well-saved by Gilks, be­fore Marvin Emnes found Small­wood to slot home.

Black­pool re­duced the deficit when Thomas fired home, but Boro’s ad­van­tage was re­stored three min­utes later when McDon­ald fired past Gilks.

Black­pool were not done. Basham took ad­van­tage of a Steele fum­ble from Stephen Crainey’s cor­ner to fire his side back into con­tention.

Then Gary Tay­lor-Fletcher took a tum­ble un­der pres­sure from Woodgate, which the ref- eree con­sid­ered be­fore point­ing to the spot.

How­ever Ince, who at­tended the River­side as a child to watch his dad play when Boro were a Pre­mier League out­fit, fluffed his lines and saw Steele claw his spot-kick to safety.

Black­pool’s mis­ery was com­pounded mo­ments later when Reach fired in from 25 yards.

Mid­dles­brough started 2012 by suf­fer­ing a heavy de­feat at Bloom­field Road, and it seemed there­fore fit­ting that they would end the year by ex­act­ing re­venge, this time on their own turf.

And man­ager Tony Mow­bray ad­mit­ted his side had retri­bu­tion on their mind.

“Black­pool came here and got a late equaliser last year, this year we got our re­wards,” said Mow­bray.“The team had a hunger about them to put right what hap­pened at Bloom­field Road. Black­pool played fab­u­lously well that night and we didn’t do our­selves jus­tice. This time, we de­served it.

“We were dom­i­nant, all the chances, all pos­ses­sion, all the threat was ours.We knew they would push on, they would push fur­ther up the pitch, and that’s what hap­pened. Some­times you can sit in a bit against it, and ob­vi­ously their goals cre­ated an un­cer­tainty, yet we got our­selves back in front once again.

“We couldn’t have scored four last sea­son be­cause we didn’t have enough goal threats, but this year we have.”

PIC­TURE: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

RIS­ING HIGH­EST: Ish­mael Miller of Mid­dles­brough scores the open­ing goal

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