5:00pm Saturday 30th November 2013
By Steph Clark
Final Score: Middlesbrough 1 Bolton 0
AITOR KARANKA got his first taste of victory as Middlesbrough manager after Grant Leadbitter’s late penalty earned the Teessiders a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at the Riverside.
Leadbitter kept his cool to finish past Andy Lonergan from the spot after Marvin Emnes was fouled by Tim Ream in the 82nd minute.
Jermaine Beckford missed from the spot five minutes later in a frantic final ten minutes on Teesside, but Boro held on to record their first win since October 25.
Karanka made four changes to his starting line-up with Jason Steele, Frazer Richardson, Daniel Ayala and Emnes all dropping out.
In came Ben Gibson, Rhys Williams, Jacob Butterfield and Shay Given, who made his 600th career club appearance after joining on loan from Aston Villa on Thursday.
The pre-match entertainment centred around the arrival of Karanka and his maiden game in charge at the Riverside with those in the North Stand waving red scarves as the Spaniard walked on the pitch to greet his new supporters.
Boro started well and took control early on with Kei Kamara and George Friend both seeing shots go wide from range, while Gibson could only direct a header over Andy Lonergan’s crossbar.
The opening 45 minutes had a distinctly familiar feel to them with Boro dominating possession, but failing to build on that in the final third.
They created plenty of chances, but lacked that killer finish that frustrated the Riverside crowd.
The fact Bolton had plenty of men behind the ball made it even more difficult for Karanka’s men to break down, but when they did find a way through the final ball was sloppy or the wrong decision was made.
Buoyed by their solid first-half display, Bolton came out for the second half in a positive mood and within the first ten minutes Jermaine Beckford had two glorious opportunities.
The first saw the striker find a good position on the right-hand side of the area after good work from Jay Spearing and Darren Pratley, but the former Everton and Leeds United man fluffed his lines, aiming his shot across Given’s goal.
Not long after Beckford found himself baring down on goal after a long ball over the top, but again he missed firing his volley over the bar.
Boro broke forward when Leadbitter’s cross-field pass found Williams in acres of space on the right, but his cross was deflected into Lonergan’s arms and another opportunity went begging.
Karanka introduced Curtis Main and Emnes within minutes of each other and the pair made an instant impact.
Main ‘s low curling shot went inches wide, which sparked the Riverside back into life.
The game seemed destined to end in a stalemate, but with nine minutes remaining Ream brought down Marvin Emnes in the box leaving Grant Leadbitter to put Boro ahead from the spot.
It looked as though Karanka was heading for his first win as Boro boss, but there was more late drama when Bolton were awarded an 87th minute penalty after Williams fouled Andre Moritz.
Up stepped Beckford, who had missed two earlier chance, and he kept up that consistency when he sent his spot-kick over and into the stand.
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