Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough have put the cat among the pigeons in the race for automatic promotion, as a Cameron Archer brace helped Boro to a memorable victory over Sheffield United on Wednesday night.
The home side raced into an early lead, but the Teessiders showed their steel and turned the game around thanks to a Chuba Akpom equaliser, before a second half double from Cameron Archer ensured the gap to The Blades in second now stands at seven points.
Michael Carrick made one change to the team that beat Cardiff City, with Dael Fry replacing Paddy McNair, whilst Isaiah Jones was absent from the match-day squad as he became a father for the first time.
Bramall Lane was a cauldron of noise as the long-awaited clash finally got underway, and the home fans wouldn’t have to wait long to raise the decibel levels further, as Oli McBurnie headed home a Jack Robinson long throw with just five minutes on the clock.
The two sides shared an end-to-end spell in the aftermath of the opener, with Boro goalkeeper Zack Steffen denying Iliman Ndiaye on his near post, whilst Marcus Forss fired a left-footed effort over the bar from inside the area.
The visitors did begin to settle into the game however, and on 24 minutes they netted a well-earned equaliser. Marcus Forss with some brilliant individual wing-play before cutting back a ball into the Championship’s top scorer Chuba Akpom, who fired his shot past Blades keeper Wes Foderingham for his 17th league goal of the season.
Australian international Riley McGree had Boro’s best chance to extend their lead before half-time, but his left-footed attempt on 40 minutes could only find the side netting, as the two sides went into the break with the outcome of the game left firmly on a knife’s edge.
Boro, however, took a leaf out of their opponent’s book after the restart, as just three minutes into the second half they were ahead, as Ryan Giles’ mazing solo run eventually led to the ball breaking to fellow loanee Cameron Archer, who dispatched his near post effort in emphatic fashion.
The home side immediately sought help from their substitutes bench, but their efforts were in vain as the Boro wrapped the game up on 74 minutes. Archer hitting the bullseye again as he latched onto Hayden Hackney’s through ball before curling the ball around Foderingham and into the corner to seal the three points for Middlesbrough.
As the celebrations continued in-front of the away end, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was shown a red card for an outburst on the touchline that led to a substitutes board being smashed, with the Blades boss believing referee Andre Marriner should’ve brought play back for a foul on James McAtee in the build up to Boro’s winning goal.
Barring one or two late United chance’s, Middlesbrough saw out the game in impressive style, and now have their sights set firmly on catching the Blades in second, with Paul Heckingbottom’s side now heading into their run-in looking worryingly over their shoulder.
Sheffield United: Foderingham; Ahmedhodzic (Jebbison, 67), Egan, Robinson; Bogle, Berge, Norwood (Osborn, 78), McAtee, Lowe; Ndiaye, McBurnie
Subs: Davies, Basham, Clark, Fleck, Coulibaly
Middlesbrough: Steffen; Smith, Fry, Lenihan, Giles; Howson, Hackney; McGree (Mowatt, 90), Akpom, Forss (Ramsey, 82); Archer (Crooks, 82)
Subs: Roberts, McNair, Bola, Barlaser