Middlesbrough 3-0 Leeds: Patrick Bamford treble keeps Boro in play-off hunt
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 03/03/18 7:18am
Patrick Bamford scored his first career hat-trick as Middlesbrough kept themselves in the hunt for a Sky Bet Championship play-off place with a 3-0 win over Leeds on Friday evening.
In one of eight Championship games to survive following the widespread snow across the UK, the former Chelsea striker opened the scoring in the 31st minute when he guided home Stewart Downing's cross, before adding his second five minutes later following Adama Traore's lung-busting run.
Leeds appeared more organised after the break, but the 24-year-old Bamford scored his sixth goal in three games, converting another Traore pass past Felix Wiedwald in the 68th minute, with Pontus Jansson's attempted clearance playing him onside.
Middlesbrough: Randolph 6), Shotton (7), Ayala (7), Gibson (6), Friend (7), Besic (6), Leadbitter (6), Howson (6), Traore (9), Downing (7), Bamford (9)
Subs: Clayton (6) Cranie (n/a)
Leeds: Wiedwald (4), Anita (5), Cooper (6), Jansson (5), Berardi (6), O'Kane (5), Phillips (5), Alioski (5), Dallas (5), Saiz (5), Lasogga (5)
Subs: Forshaw (6), Vieira (5), Ekuban (5)
Man of the match: Patrick Bamford
Victory moves Tony Pulis' side into the play-off places on goal difference, while Leeds remain six points adrift of the top six with just 11 games remaining.
Despite gifting the ball to Leeds in a bizarre kick-off routine, Middlesbrough battled back from a shaky opening to lift themselves firmly on top. Visiting goalkeeper Wiedwald flapped at Ryan Shotton's pacy cross with Downing poised at the far post but the former England international was unable to convert.
After his double against Sunderland last weekend, Bamford was deployed in his favoured position as the lone striker and he rewarded Pulis' faith by smartly guiding home Downing's whipped cross.
Within minutes, it was 2-0. The electric Traore had been a thorn in the side of Paul Heckingbottom's side throughout the first half and his blistering run through the centre of the pitch provided the opening for Bamford to slot the second under a hapless Wiedwald.
Ronaldo Vieira and Adam Forshaw were introduced for the second half, but though Leeds' performance improved, the hosts retained a rigid shape and kept their opponents out.
Paul Heckingbottom named the same starting eleven that beat Brentford at Elland Road last weekend, while Tony Pulis made just one change, with Britt Assombalonga returning to the bench in place of Jonny Howson; Patrick Bamford led the Boro line in attack.
Bamford's eye for goal remained as the second half got underway but it looked as though he would miss out on that elusive treble once more, particularly after being foiled by a superbly-timed challenge by Leeds skipper Liam Cooper.
But as Traore burst forward once more, the pace of his strike was slowed by a touch from Leeds defender Jansson which played Bamford onside, who swept home the third to round off the victory.
Man of the match - Patrick Bamford
A superb evening for the 24-year-old who looks back to his prolific best under Tony Pulis. He was favoured over Britt Assombalonga in attack on Friday evening and staked his claim for the starting spot with three coolly converted goals.
It's been a tough couple of seasons for the former Chelsea man, but this form should fill him with confidence heading into a crucial point in the Championship season, with Boro still well within the promotion mix.
Tony Pulis: "It was the best performance since I've been here. That's nine goals in three games now and we have played very well. But this win is about the whole club. People from the community and our staff turned up for two days to get the pitch and terraces cleared and get the game on.
"It has been a first-class performance from everyone, people who love this club. That certainly inspired me, and this is a can-do area. I'm pleased for the folk who worked for nothing to get this game on.
"Patrick deserves to get the plaudits for his three. He is a tremendous talent, and needs to keep it going. But there were some good performances around the team. That was front-foot football, I like that. Move the ball quickly and have attempts on goal."
Paul Heckingbottom: "It was disappointing. I thought we were second best and I'm especially disappointed with the goals. It's not acceptable and we'll get to where we want to be with that performance. The way Boro played upset us and we didn't compete well enough.
"We weren't aggressive enough. I thought Boro did well and were on the front foot, but I'm more bothered about us and we just didn't cope with it. That's the disappointing thing. We didn't acquit ourselves well enough. Getting beat is part and parcel of football, but sometimes how you get beat is important. We were second best here, and that is what hurts.
"We got beat by the better team, and it's always tough when you know that you're second best by a margin."
Middlesbrough head to St Andrew's to face struggling Birmingham on Tuesday evening, while Leeds welcome league leaders Wolves to Elland Road on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Football.
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