The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Peter Fer­ris

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.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

ALL SMILES: Stewart Down­ing cel­e­brates scor­ing Mid­dles­bro’s first

SPOT-ON: Tom Ni­chols



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