1...2...3..! LIFT-OFF FOR ROCKET VOSS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Joe Ma­son

JELLE Vossen must think that goals are like the London buses that run in front of the Den – you wait an eter­nity for one to ar­rive, and then three come at once.

Vossen had made 12 ap­pear­ances since join­ing Mid­dles­brough on a sea­son-long loan from Bel­gian club Genk in the sum­mer, and was still wait­ing for his first goal in English foot­ball when he kicked off against Mill­wall.

Forty-five min­utes later, and he was cel­e­brat­ing a hat-trick at the end of a re­mark­ably one-sided half that saw Boro score four goals with­out re­ply against a Mill­wall side that were un­able to cope with their pace and move­ment in at­tack.

Pa­trick Bam­ford also found the tar­get be­fore the in­ter­val, and while for­mer Boro striker Scott McDon­ald grabbed a sec­ond-half con­so­la­tion for the hosts, Kike added a fifth to en­sure Ai­tor Karanka’s side would be able to cel­e­brate their big­gest win of the sea­son cour­tesy of com­fort­ably their most eye-catch­ing dis­play.

Karanka said: “I’m very pleased, but not only be­cause of the score, but also be­cause of the per­for­mance and the re­ac­tion after ev­ery­thing that hap­pened last week.

“We know how dif­fi­cult it has been this week for us, but the re­ac­tion of the team was bril­liant. The first half was per­fect, but I told them at half-time that our big­gest mis­take would be to think that ev­ery­thing was done.

“We know how dif­fi­cult it is to play here, but we kept go­ing in the sec­ond half and cre­ated a lot of chances again. The fi­nal score could have been seven or eight, but the main thing was the per­for­mance and the re­ac­tion.”

Vossen should ar­guably have had a goal be­fore he broke the dead­lock as his sixth-minute header from Grant Lead­bit­ter’s cor­ner ap­peared to have crossed the line be­fore it was clawed away by David Forde.

That ef­fort was not given, but there was no doubt­ing the va­lid­ity of Vossen’s ef­fort 15 min­utes later as he out­paced the Mill­wall de­fence to reach Ken­neth Omeruo’s ball be­fore hook­ing a fan­tas­tic fin­ish over Forde and into the cor­ner of the net.

Bam­ford dou­bled Boro’s lead seven min­utes later, tak­ing the ball from Adam Reach and step­ping inside an op­po­si­tion de­fender be­fore ca­ress­ing a low fin­ish past Forde.

Vossen’s sec­ond of the game fol­lowed shortly after, with the striker side-foot­ing home after Reach teed him up fol­low­ing another de­fence-split­ting long pass from Daniel Ayala.

Mill­wall were out­played through­out the first half, and Vossen com­pleted his hat-trick a minute be­fore the break as he rolled the ball into an empty net after Bam­ford’s ini­tial shot had been blocked.

McDon­ald’s con­so­la­tion came with 12 min­utes left, ham­mer­ing the ball into the roof of the net, but Boro’s per­for­mance de­manded they had the fi­nal say, and it ar­rived within a minute. Emilio Nsue pulled the ball back from the right-hand side, and sub­sti­tute Kike drilled home a low fin­ish via the base of the left-hand post.

Un­der Ian Hol­loway, Mill­wall are worse off than they were a year ago – cur­rently 20th with 20 points while 12 months ago they were 17th with 21. Steve Lo­mas even­tu­ally lost his job come Box­ing Day and Hol­loway said: “As a man­ager, you set up your team to go out and do things.You look at the op­po­si­tion and have a game plan. When you change shape, it’s a dif­fer­ent struc­ture.

“What’s dif­fi­cult is when it doesn’t go right and you have to stand there. I don’t blame peo­ple – I blame my­self and that’s what I want to do. It was an aw­ful day, but it makes you strong.

“I apol­o­gise to the fans. We made some ter­ri­ble mis­takes as a group and in­di­vid­u­ally, and I ac­cept all those mis­takes be­cause it’s my job. They were crisp, sharp and con­fi­dent, and ev­ery­thing they hit went in.”

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

FIVE STAR: Pa­trick Bam­ford nets as Boro run riot. In­set: Jelle Vossen cel­e­brates his first goal in English foot­ball

STAR MAN JELLE VOSSE

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