Middlesbrough 1-0 Hull: David Nugent heads last-gasp winner for hosts
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 19/03/16 1:13pm
Aitor Karanka's return to the Middlesbrough dugout resulted in a happy ending to a turbulent week as David Nugent's stoppage-time header saw off fellow Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls Hull 1-0 at the Rverside Stadium.
Having walked out last Friday following a stormy meeting with his players, and failing to smooth over the bust-up the following day, it looked like the former Real Madrid assistant manager's days on Teesside were numbered.
However, having watched the loss at struggling Charlton from afar, Karanka surprisingly returned to his role as head coach this week and on Friday oversaw a memorable late win as substitute Nugent saw off Steve Bruce's men with a fine header right at the death.
Both sides came into this match looking to kick-start stuttering promotion tilts, which had seen Boro fall to three defeats in their last four outings and Hull winless over the same period.
The Riverside encounter started energetically enough, but it tapered off with Cristhian Stuani's header and a Robert Snodgrass strike the best either team could muster.
Hull started the second period brightly but the hosts weathered that storm and, just as the match was petering out, Nugent glanced home, sending the Riverside into raptures as Karanka and his staff jumped in celebration on the touchline.
It made for an exciting end to an otherwise forgettable match, ahead of which the Boro head coach used his programme notes to express his relief that "everything has been made clear" and that the club could move on.
That message was echoed in an unusual pre-match announcement from the Spaniard that was met by a loud roar - noise that would have gone up several more notches had Andy Robertson not hacked a Stuani header off the line.
Grant Leadbitter also tried his luck but this was far from one-way traffic, with Mo Diame and Snodgrass having Hull's best openings until the 34th minute, when Snodgrass struck just wide at the end of a lovely, flowing team move.
Diame was proving more effective than recent City matches and Boro fans wanted him sent off as half-time approached, having brought down Tomas Kalas shortly after being booked.
Those appeals were rejected and he continued to threaten after the break, twisting and turning before a deflection saw the ball fall kindly for Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Stewart Downing - whose summer return has reportedly led to tension between Karanka and chairman Steve Gibson - received a mixed reception when introduced in the 61st minute in a bid to stem an increasing Hull tide.
The former England international helped calm Boro down but was unable to help inject new attacking impetus, nor initially was Nugent in place of big-money acquisition Jordan Rhodes.
The visitors made changes of their own in a bid to eke out a winner and the substitutes almost combined for the opener, with Abel Hernandez blocked and then Ahmed Elmohamady lashing over. Konstantopoulos also kept out a hopeful Robertson header.
Hull captain Michael Dawson impressively blocked Nugent, but the substitute was not to be denied for long.
As the match entered stoppage time, Albert Adomah swung in a cross that Nugent steered home to send the Riverside wild.