Middlesbrough 2-0 QPR: Boro strengthen grip on play-off spot
Jonny Howson and Ashley Fletcher strike in comfortable win for Middlesbrough
Last Updated: 23/02/19 6:35pm
Middlesbrough strengthened their grip on a play-off place in the Championship by piling more misery on Queens Park Rangers with a 2-0 victory.
Goals from Jonny Howson and Ashley Fletcher got Boro on course for three points in the first half and Steve McClaren's Rangers never looked like preventing a seventh straight defeat at his former club.
That is now an unwanted club record for QPR, who should be just thankful they had a healthy cushion to the relegation zone before this horrible run.
Middlesbrough were desperate to improve a poor record of their own at the Riverside Stadium where they had won just two of their previous 11 matches.
They got off to the perfect start when wing-back Howson, clearly enjoying playing on the right, was rewarded for his attacking mind with the opening goal.
There was just one minute and 50 seconds on the clock when he casually worked his way into the visiting penalty area undetected.
Impressive midfielder Mo Besic spotted him and picked out a lovely diagonal pass which Howson managed to force beyond goalkeeper Joe Lumley, who had left his line, to grab his first since April.
QPR almost levelled straight after but Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph did well to turn behind an effort from Eberechi Eze at his near post.
From there on in Middlesbrough took command. There was not much threat posed to Randolph's goal for the rest of the half and it was no surprise when the men from Teesside extended their advantage.
Besic, who had already gone close himself with an effort that flew inches wide of the upright from distance, was allowed too much freedom in the opposition's half and he made them pay.
The on-loan Everton midfielder turned and charged towards the box, rolled a pass into the feet of Fletcher unmarked on the left. The £6.5m striker, who had not scored in the league this season, shifted the ball on to his left foot and he crashed a finish inside the top left of Lumley's near post.
Almost instantly Britt Assombalonga should have added a third, but he was denied by Lumley this time when he was faced with just the goalkeeper to beat as QPR's five-man defence left too many gaps.
After the restart McClaren put three up front for the second half. QPR were still unable to seriously test Randolph again, even though they did get into some decent positions down the flanks.
Middlesbrough should have made it three with 15 minutes remaining when Assombalonga was denied by Lumley, this time after a cleverly worked move involving Lewis Wing and Stewart Downing in and around the area.
Middlesbrough had already done enough, despite a few long range efforts at both ends and a save from Randolph to deny Nahki wells before the final whistle.
Tony Pulis: "Pleased obviously to win at home. There's good momentum at the club. We've only lost one game this calendar year and that was Sheffield Untied with 10 men. We've had too many draws at the Riverside, we've got to turn them into wins.
"It was a great run from Jonny. I thought Besic first half was excellent, that was like him last year. We've got to get him up to that level. There's 13 games left, that's a lot of games. And if we can get Besic up to that level that he was at last year, him and John Obi Mikel, that's an awesome pair in midfield."
Steve McClaren: "We lost the game in the first 30 minutes to two errors, two goals and then against a very good Middlesbrough team, who have conceded the least goals in the Football League, it was going to be uphill. We huffed and puffed We couldn't get the goal in the second half. The lesson is we can't start a game and within two minutes be one down.
"This is a tough week, Leeds on Tuesday, a great atmosphere, another top team and we have to keep fighting and show perseverance like we have been doing and get the first win of the year. We are very close, we need to really have a go on Tuesday against Leeds and then Brentford. The errors we are making can be rectified on the training field, we need to be back on there because you can't do anything on the training ground when you play seven games in 21 days."