7:00am Monday 7th October 2013
By Richard Mason
IT IS indicative of the cut-throat world of football management that last week seemed to be a crucial one for Middlesbrough and their manager Tony Mowbray.
Two home games provided Middlesbrough with an ideal opportunity to pick up six points and start to climb the table.
Defeat in either the Huddersfield or Yeovil Town games - or failure to beat the latter, who languish in the relegation zone in the Championship - would have put some serious pressure on Mowbray, whose side had not victored since August 10.
The mood around the Riverside Stadium in recent weeks has verged on the toxic. While the low attendances have been a talking point over the last seven days, Middlesbrough’s failure to win at home so far this season has chipped away at the atmosphere, with the supporters who do turn up voicing their disdain.
Once Middlesbrough scored their fourth - because they were by no means home and hosed before then - the atmosphere changed. For the first time in a while, Tony Mowbray was the subject of some appreciative songs from the crowd. The familiar request for a wave, usually made when the team is coasting, was accepted. For once, it all seemed that everyone was in it together, rather than the world being against Tony Mowbray.
Middlesbrough’s man of the match was summer signing Jacob Butterfield, who Mowbray has courted for some time, and who put in his best performance so far since moving from Norwich City on deadline day.
And the midfielder believes that victory against Yeovil could be a catalyst for Boro to put a run together.
"This is my third home game - Bournemouth, Huddersfield and now Yeovil - and I think we've been by far the better team in all three,” said Butterfield, who scored Boro’s third goal of the afternoon. “We just haven't been able to follow up the performances with wins until now.
"So hopefully this will relieve a bit of pressure now and we can play with a bit more confidence.
"You can understand the fans getting a bit apprehensive, but hopefully this relieves a bit of tension off everyone and we can go out with a bit more freedom now and win the next few games.
"I just want to stay in the team and keep playing well. I want to be part of a successful team. I want Middlesbrough to be challenging at the top. I've just come down from the Premier League with Norwich and I want to get back there with Middlesbrough as quickly as I can.
"I just want to be part of a winning team that's up there challenging, in and around the play-offs, trying to get promoted.”
For the third time in four games, Middlesbrough conceded inside the first five minutes of a game. It is this sloppiness that is causing Mowbray so much worry.
And, against Yeovil, Mowbray thought that Liam Davies’ early goal would have given them a mountain to climb. But, to Middlesbrough’s credit, they set their stall out soon after and went on the attack, equalising through Grant Leadbitter, then taking the lead through Albert Adomah, while goals from Butterfield and Kei Kamara put the gloss on a comprehensive win.
Yeovil may be well-backed for an instant return to League One, but Middlesbrough were every bit as good as the Glovers were bad. Boro scored four and could have had six. Yeovil scored once and could have had three.
After seeing Bournemouth and Queens Park Rangers race into leads against them, history repeated itself for Boro when Davies rushed on to a loose ball and fired a low shot past Jason Steele with only four minutes on the clock.
Their reply, however, was almost instant, as Adomah’s cross found Leadbitter, who volleyed into the ground and over Wayne Hennessey in the Yeovil goal.
Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson, left, watches the action alongside chief executive Neil Bausor, centre, and former Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon
Kamara spurned two decent chances on 12 minutes when he headed against the crossbar, got up and volleyed against the post, when it would have been easier to allow the onrushing George Friend to have a crack.
A fine pass from Dean Whitehead found Friend in space, only to see the full-back hauled down by Joel Grant in the area. Leadbitter saw his spot-kick pushed on to the post by Hennessey and Adomah hooked in the rebound.
Kamara was deployed in a wide-right position for the first time under Mowbray, and the power from the wing was all too evident when the former MLS star cut in from the right and released a powerful low shot which Hennessey did well to keep hold of.
Despite an attacking half of football, Middlesbrough still needed a cushion and Butterfield gave his side one when he fired a low shot from 25 yards on 50 minutes, but as Boro lifted off the acceleration, Yeovil came into the game more, and Sam Hoskins should have done better when Davies’ unselfishly squared for him six yards out on 53 minutes. Instead, the substitute could only fire against the post under pressure from Steele.
Butterfield aimed a snapshot goalwards but Hennessey saved on 68 minutes, before Kamara’s thundering header sealed the points for the hosts.
However, Yeovil were given a couple of opportunities towards the end as Boro switched off, and Keiffer Moore fluffed his lines from a few yards out when Kevin Dawson drove a cross in for the substitute.
Butterfield, who Middlesbrough kept tabs on since he was a young player at Barnsley, is looking forward to kicking on once the international break is over, against his old club at Oakwell.
"I'm enjoying it, it's been really good. I'm grateful to the manager for showing faith in me and giving me a good run of games,” said Butterfield.
"I've played six games on the bounce and I feel like I'm getting fitter and stronger, and hopefully that's starting to show in my performances.
"It's a great feeling to finally win a game and we'll hopefully have a few more coming up.
"We're a strong team. We're strong in midfield. It's good to be playing with other good players and I think me, Dean (Whitehead) and Grant (Leadbitter) complement each other quite well and we'll only get stronger.
"I've not scored for a couple of years now, since my Barnsley days because I've not played that much, and it was a great feeling when the goal went in, but more importantly the win.
"It's just a shame that we have to wait two weeks now because we've got some momentum going now but it was important to go into the break with a win and gives us time now to prepare for our next game at Barnsley and hopefully another win."
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