MONEY TALKS AS DONS ARE DOWNED
WHEN Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson agreed to pay £11m for Stewart Downing and David Nugent he expected goals to fire Premier League football back to Teesside.
So when Downing curled in a brilliant opener to break the deadlock 20 minutes from time to edge Boro in front against a well-organised MK Dons, Gibson – like the majority of the Riverside Stadium – breathed a sigh of relief.
And to see Nugent then follow that up with his own predatory finish with nine minutes remaining was the icing on the cake on an afternoon when Middlesbrough had to be patient to find a way through.
The goals were firsts for Downing, who assisted for the second, and Nugent since arriving from West Ham and Leicester City for £7m and £4m respectively and they lifted Middlesbrough up to third.
And Aitor Karanka, the head coach, was satisfied that the double act delivered to get Middlesbrough over the line when he must have feared MK Dons might earn a positive outcome.
Karanka said:“Stewart and David are players who can score goals from nothing. I am really pleased with them, especially David, because he had one chance and he scored.
“You could tell people were a bit nervous but we have to stay calm. The way we play, we are always going to score goals.
“We are going to find more games like this but we know we have good players and we have to play well.
“We are not going to get promotion yet, just as I said it was not impossible after we lost to Bristol City.”
Middlesbrough – who did not include Albert Adomah in the squad despite sorting out his differences with the head coach after a bust up – started brightly but could not find a breakthrough easily, despite Downing’s impressive first half.
His brilliant run down the right almost teed up an early goal when his cross ended up at the feet of Adam Reach, whose shot was saved by goalkeeper David Martin.
There were a couple of half chances after that, while MK Dons also threatened occasionally themselves – particularly when Dimi Konstantopoulos held a header from Sam Gallagher.
Substitute Simon Church also hit the post and Dons boss Karl Robinson said: ”We don’t have the quality of Middlesbrough. We need to be honest with ourselves.
“But I’ve seen Middlesbrough play their last four games, and I’ve seen them dominate teams and really carve people open at will at times.
“I thought we had the best chance in the game but I also thought we defended wonderfully well.
“If I’m being ultra critical we need to be better in the final third. We looked a bit flaky at times and gave up possession too easily.
“But the back five were brave in how they tried to play out. A lot of teams will come here and play it long.We tried to stick to our principles.
“But what a goal from Downing that was. From then on we looked a bit disjointed at times after the first goal.”
It was Downing’s brilliance that got Middlesbrough moving.
He curled a brilliant finish inside the far corner from just inside the box after running at the MK Dons defence.
And then 11 minutes later he headed Nugent clear on goal and the striker applied the cool finish to seal the points for Middlesbrough and build confidence ahead of Tuesday’s visit of potentially tricky Brentford.
ALL SMILES: Stewart Downing celebrates scoring Middlesbro’s first
SPOT-ON: Tom Nichols
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