Ayala earns Boro fourth straight win

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Si­mon Wal­ton

IT HAD al­ready been a good week for Daniel Ayala thanks to the birth of his son, but it be­came an even bet­ter one at the City Ground as his first-half header en­abled Mid­dles­brough to com­plete a per­fect seven days.

Hav­ing al­ready seen off MK Dons and Brent­ford at the River­side, Boro made it nine points in the space of three matches as they once again show­cased their pro­mo­tion cre­den­tials in Not­ting­ham.

Hav­ing been handed the ideal start when David Nu­gent scored in the third minute, Ai­tor Karanka’s side were pegged back as Matt Mills volleyed home in a whirl­wind open­ing spell.

But while he might not be get­ting much sleep fol­low­ing the ar­rival of a baby boy, Ayala’s alert­ness proved cru­cial just be­fore the in­ter­val as he stole into the six-yard box to stab home from close range.

Dimi Kon­stan­topou­los’ sec­ond-half penalty save was another decisive mo­ment, but it was Ayala lead­ing the cel­e­bra­tions af­ter the Teessiders held out to claim only their sec­ond win at the City Ground in 42 years.

Karanka said: “It has been a good week for him, and he also told Dimi that Henri Lans­bury would put his penalty straight down the mid­dle so ev­ery­thing was good for him.

“He is an im­por­tant player for us, and he knows that ev­ery day he is im­prov­ing and grow­ing up. He has to keep do­ing that, and he has to make sure he is al­ways con­cen­trat­ing be­cause it is easy to make mis­takes and give things away.

“I am re­ally pleased with him, but I am pleased with all of them be­cause their at­ti­tude has been ex­cel­lent. I might not have been re­ally pleased with this per­for­mance, but I know how dif­fi­cult it was to win the game.”

Hav­ing re­called Al­bert Adomah for his first start since the winger sub­mit­ted a for­mal trans­fer re­quest at the end of last month, Karanka was able to watch his side make an ideal start.

Ge­orge Friend whipped over a dan­ger­ous cross from the left, and while Adomah failed to con­nect at the near post, Nu­gent stole into the area to steer the ball home from close range.

For­est’s re­sponse was both im­me­di­ate and em­phatic, with cen­tre-half Mills meet­ing Lans­bury’s cor­ner with a fe­ro­cious first-time volley that ripped into the net.

Down­ing should have re­stored Boro’s lead in the 11th minute, only for the for­mer Eng­land in­ter­na­tional to roll his shot too close to goal­keeper Dorus de Vries af­ter he broke clear of the For­est back four, but the visi­tors suc­cess­fully re­claimed their ad­van­tage be­fore the in­ter­val.

Adam Clay­ton crossed from the right, Kelvin Wil­son mis­cued his at­tempted de­fen­sive header, and Ayala dis­played quick re­ac­tions to steal into the six-yard box to head home.

For­est spent most of the sec­ond half push­ing for an equaliser, but Kon­stan­topou­los made fine saves to deny Ryan Men­des and Eric Lichaj.

The hosts’ best op­por­tu­nity came 13 min­utes from time, with Ben Gib­son in­ex­pli­ca­bly han­dling on the right- hand side of the area. Kon­stan­topou­los saved Lans­bury’s penalty, be­fore also keep­ing out Jamie Ward’s fol­low-up ef­fort.

For­est boss Dougie Freedman said: “The dif­fer­ence be­tween Mid­dles­brough and just about any other team is that they’ve been spend­ing a lot of money for the last two and half years.

“They have a man­ager who has been there for quite a while now, and that gives them a lot of con­sis­tency. When you have that, and I had it at Crys­tal Palace, it just rolls.

“Be­cause of that con­sis­tency, and get­ting the right play­ers, they have a fan­tas­tic bal­ance in their squad. That is why I be­lieve they will be cham­pi­ons – be­cause of the con­sis­tency.”

PRES­SURE: Mid­dles­brough’s David Nu­gent is tack­led by Not­ting­ham For­est’s Henri Lans­bury

PIC­TURES: CameraSport

WIN­NER: Daniel Ayala scores Mid­dles­brough’s sec­ond as he beats Not­ting­ham For­est’s Dorus de Vries to the high ball


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