Middlesbrough 2-0 Ipswich: Boro cruise to victory
Jordan Hugill scores from the penalty spot and Marcus Tavernier adds second for Middlesbrough at Riverside Stadium.
Last Updated: 29/12/18 6:25pm
Middlesbrough cemented their place in the play-off positions in the Sky Bet Championship as they claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over struggling Ipswich.
Jordan Hugill's first-half penalty set the Teessiders on their way, with Marcus Tavernier's second-half strike rounding off a routine victory.
The result provided Middlesbrough with a first Championship home win since November 10, and eased the pressure which had been building on their manager Tony Pulis.
Ipswich, on the other hand, have now won just one of their last 13 matches, and Paul Lambert's side are in danger of becoming detached at the foot of the table.
Middlesbrough went into the game needing to atone for their Boxing Day home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday but, for the opening half-hour, the hosts' festive hangover looked like continuing.
It was the 35th minute before Boro recorded a shot on target, and even that was a tame effort from George Saville that brought sarcastic applause from the home fans.
Ipswich were the more threatening team for most of the first half, with Luke Chambers looping a header onto the top of the crossbar midway through the opening period as he met Jon Nolan's free-kick.
It did not look as though Darren Randolph had touched the ball, but referee Jeremy Simpson awarded a corner, and the Middlesbrough goalkeeper was forced to produce an excellent save from the subsequent set-piece.
Trevoh Chalobah rose highest on the edge of the six-yard box, but Randolph hurled himself to his right to claw away the midfielder's header.
Boro desperately needed something to get them going, and it arrived eight minutes before the break as they were awarded a penalty.
Hugill was hauled down by Jordan Spence as he tried to reach Stewart Downing's right-wing cross inside the six-yard box, and the West Ham loan striker picked himself up to roll home his fifth goal of the season from the spot.
The goal lifted much of the tension that had been building inside the Riverside, and Boro became much more dominant at the start of the second half.
Hugill came close to claiming a second goal when he raced on to Saville's pass, but his shot from inside the area was thwarted by a superb one-handed save by Dean Gerken.
Middlesbrough thought they should have had another penalty moments later, but while Matthew Pennington appeared to trip Saville inside the area, Simpson waved play on.
Jonny Howson, playing in an unfamiliar position of right wing-back, broke dangerously down the right, only to overhit his cross for Hugill in the middle, but Boro effectively put the game to bed as they doubled their advantage with 18 minutes left.
Howson played substitute Tavernier into the area, and Gerken allowed the midfielder's tame shot to squirm under his body and into the net.
Tony Pulis: "I was pleased with the performance, although I was disappointed again with the chances we created that we didn't score enough goals.
"But you can't fault the players. The players worked really hard today, and I thought we deserved to win the game."
Paul Lambert: "I thought the way we played was excellent. They have one player on the bench (Britt Assombalonga) who cost more than our entire team.
"Football wise, we were absolutely brilliant. But we need to be more clinical in the final third. If we get a few in, and I think we need a little bit of help, we will be okay. Football wise, they have been excellent for me - I can't ask any more."