Finland striker Marcus Forss ensured Middlesbrough maintained their remarkable turnaround under Michael Carrick with the clincher as they beat fellow promotion hopefuls Millwall for a fourth Championship win in a row.
Forss’ vicious low drive in the second half, after his initial shot had been blocked, was the difference and finally saw Lions goalkeeper George Long beaten after a brave resistance.
Player of the month Chuba Akpom was lively throughout, combining with Matt Crooks to continually open up the Millwall defence, yet Long made a number of smart saves to keep him at bay.
At the other end, Zack Steffen saved by Zian Flemming after he was given time to get a shot away from the edge of the box, while Andreas Voglsammer was close to getting a touch on George Honeyman’s cross.
Boro got the breakthrough when Forss drilled in, and they were indebted to some sharp defending of their own when ex-Teessiders midfielder George Saville had a shot blocked after Steffen failed to take a cross.
Akpom’s 13 league goals made him the division’s leading scorer before this game but it was Forss, a summer arrival from Brentford, who delivered the points with only his fifth goal of the campaign.
It was an ideal time to find his shooting boots, given boss Carrick had turned to Cameron Archer in midweek, a loan signing from Aston Villa, to add “something different” to their striking options.
It means Carrick has accrued 25 points from 11 games in charge to lift Boro to fourth, form unseen at the club since Bryan Robson’s side won promotion back to the Premier League in 1994.
For Gary Rowett and Millwall this loss signaled the end of their four-game unbeaten league run, falling out of the play-off places, on the back of an FA Cup defeat by Sheffield United last time out.
Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick told BBC Radio Tees:
“First half I think we did a lot of good things without getting reward for it. We had a lot of the ball we won it back very quickly and we had a big focus on that this week.
“Hence we got a lot of possession, but it’s not easy and we understand the crowd getting frustrated, we’ve got to pick the moment to hurt teams and we did that really well.
“Towards the end it becomes a bit frantic they’re a good team and made us defend. The 1-0 wins where you have to dig in the changing room is a good place because the boys have had to earn it.”
Millwall boss Gary Rowett told BBC Radio London:
“I think it’s a tough place to come, they’ve been on a fabulous run under Michael, and you can feel the buzz around the place but we got our gameplan spot on first half, we frustrated them and made it very difficult to play through us.
“If we’d showed a bit more belief and quality on the ball I think we’d have got into more in the first half in an attacking sense, we had a good few first half.
“We did a lot of things well, they’ll have those moments of pressure. As an away performance I was happy up to that point [the goal] but the challenge is when they get that little break and it’s a great finish you start chasing the game. That was the disappointment going 1-0 down.”
- 16HowsonBooked at 87mins
- 21ForssSubstituted forArcherat 73′minutes
- 8McGreeSubstituted forBolaat 90+4′minutes
- 25CrooksBooked at 45minsSubstituted forWatmoreat 78′minutes
- 1LongBooked at 39mins
- 4HutchinsonBooked at 90mins
- 5CooperSubstituted forSavilleat 55′minutesBooked at 78mins
- 3M Wallace
- 8MitchellSubstituted forShackletonat 83′minutes
- 39HoneymanSubstituted forTheyat 83′minutes
- 21VoglsammerSubstituted forBennettat 70′minutes
- Matt Donohue
Match ends, Middlesbrough 1, Millwall 0.
Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 1, Millwall 0.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Granted by Shaun Hutchinson.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Marc Bola replaces Riley McGree.
Tommy Smith (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Romain Esse (Millwall).
Attempt blocked. George Saville (Millwall) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Zian Flemming.
Corner, Millwall. Granted by Dael Fry.
Shaun Hutchinson (Millwall) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Shaun Hutchinson (Millwall).
Attempt missed. Hayden Hackney (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Riley McGree.
Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough).
George Saville (Millwall) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Tom Bradshaw (Millwall) header from the center of the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by George Saville with a cross.
Corner, Millwall. Granted by Dael Fry.
Foul by Cameron Archer (Middlesbrough).
Romain Esse (Millwall) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Millwall. Jamie Shackleton replaces Billy Mitchell.