Middlesbrough came from behind to edge out QPR in a thriller
IT has been a positive week for Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough, even if Ian Holloway was left scratching his head wondering how he returned south with “absolutely zip” from Teesside.
Holloway’s Queens Park Rangers, without a victory on the road so far this season, went into the lead twice at the start of each half and still ended up losing.
Monk, on the other hand, was just delighted that Middlesbrough had managed to emerge from a challenging eight days with seven points from a possible nine.
The former Leeds and Swansea boss was smiling after watching Britt Assombalonga dive to head in a winner on the hour with his fifth goal since moving from Nottingham Forest in a £15m deal.
It was a narrow win secured by virtually the same starting line-up which had to grind out a goalless draw at Aston Villa on Tuesday with ten men when Adama Traore was red-carded inside four minutes.
Monk, whose side won at Bolton a week earlier, said: “We are very pleased with the result in the end.
“The first half QPR came with a plan to try to frustrate and slow things down.
“We gifted them the first goal and that made it difficult for us. We didn’t affect the game how we wanted to.
“We made another mistake to gift them another avoidable goal. Credit to the players because we had a good 25-minute period where we got our lead and if any- thing we should have extended that after that.
“In account of all that, we have had a hard week. There is always a debate in my mind, that freshness, physical side of it, should you change things?
“But they deserved to play in that game. And credit to those that did. It’s an important trait to win when you are not at your best, we were clinical in the right areas at the right times.”
QPR went ahead inside two minutes when David Wheeler coasted in at the back post to convert Luke Freeman’s pass behind the defence.
Middlesbrough levelled with nine minutes remaining of the half when Lewis Baker slotted home following a clever pass from impressive former Oxford winger Marvin Johnson.
Jamie Mackie made the most of a mix-up between Darren Randolph and Ben Gibson four minutes into the second half to restore QPR’s lead, only for fellow substitute Ashley Fletcher to glance in an equaliser from Cyrus Christie’s delivery.
Then Assombalonga headed in a cross from Johnson to leave Holloway satisfied yet frustrated – even if Pawel Wszolek hit the post late on.
Holloway said: “It was a fantastic game of football. As a neutral that’s what you want to see. After our early goal, they moved the ball and we knew they would.
“To be fair I am scratching my head how we lost it. You have to say it’s down to the changes Garry made, they had that on the bench. It’s fine margins, we hit the post, did the ball go out for their winner?
“That’s the new QPR. I thought they gave me absolutely everything.
“When this place gets going it’s tough. Last time I was here I was unbiased watching a couple of games when they got promoted. This year I saw my team at least deserve something, maybe a point.”
GO FLETCH: Ashley Fletcher rises high to score the equaliser that set up Middlesbrough’s victory at The Riverside