Middlesbrough picked up their first win under Chris Wilder, beating Huddersfield Town 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Duncan Watmore scored twice within the space of seven first-half minutes to all-but win the game.
Huddersfield had taken 13 points from their last five fixtures on home turf, including beating West Brom this time last week. Luke Daniels’ late own goal halved the deficit but didn’t offer enough time for an equaliser.
Ultimately, today, Wilder mastered their downfall, aided by Watmore’s double.
— Alfie Burns (@BurnsAlfie) November 27, 2021
Despite Boro’s first-half control it was Harry Toffolo who wasted the game’s first meaningful chance, snatching at a shot after Sorba Thomas’ corner.
The opening goal came less than a minute later following a swift Boro break.
Jonny Howson was offered too much time in midfield, sending Isaiah Jones into space behind Toffolo. The wing-back crossed for Watmore to finish beyond Lee Nicholls.
Huddersfield were struggling to gain any control in the midfield and were punished again on 23 minutes.
Matt Crooks chipped a clever pass behind Tom Lees and Matty Pearson, presenting Watmore with the opportunity to lift a classy finish lob Nicholls to double Boro’s lead.
Watmore tested Nicholls twice more and was causing Carlos Corberan’s defence all kinds of problems.
Wilder’s blueprint was all over Boro’s performance so far: centre-backs seeing plenty of possession, wing-backs high and wide, midfield busy and Watmore playing with purpose.
As impressive as Boro’s opening 45 minutes was, though, their task was to put in a complete performance, particularly after surrendering a winning position midweek.
Nicholls denied Boro a third shortly after the break, blocking Marcus Tavernier’s shot after the midfielder ghosted into space in the penalty area.
Andraz Sporar then spurned the opportunity of extending Boro’s lead following good work from Howson and Watmore, punching wide of Nicholls’ post.
Daniels in the Boro goal remained largely untested as Danel Sinani’s shot deflected harmlessly wide.
It wasn’t quite as clinical as the first-half but Wilder’s side continued to commit bodies forwards in possession and press in packs without the ball.
Corberan threw on Fraizer Campbell and Josh Koroma in a bid to rescue something. Yards away Wilder stood composed, hands in his pockets, as his goalscorer made way.
Sporar passed up another chance to test Nicholls; he might’ve even outscored Watmore had he had half the composure of his strike partner.
As it was, his wastefulness wouldn’t be punished, despite Daniels turning Lewis O’Brien’s deflected cross into his own goal deep in stoppage time.
Early days, of course, but Wilder’s Boro looking capable of morphing into the efficient machine we saw him build in Sheffield.
FT: Huddersfield Town 1-2 Middlesbrough.