4:52pm Saturday 8th March 2014
By Paul Fraser
Full-time: Middlesbrough 2 Ipswich Town 0
DANNY GRAHAM'S first goals since returning to Middlesbrough brought an end to the long wait for someone to find the net on Teesside.
Graham, on loan from Sunderland, followed up a 29th minute poacher's finish with a header on the stroke of half-time to secure a 2-0 victory over Ipswich Town.
The first scored by the 28-year-old - his first since scoring for Hull at Swansea in December – arrived 12 hours and 13 minutes after Boro's previous goal against Charlton on January 18.
And the victory ended a winless Middlesbrough run which had stretched to seven, meaning it requires something special in the run-in if Aitor Karanka's side are to finish in the play-offs.
Ipswich were poor, but Middlesbrough managed to secure all the points in comfortable fashion with goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos rarely put under serious threat.
Middlesbrough's top scorer, Albert Adomah, was not even on the bench following his midweek international with Ghana. That meant a further reshuffle to the forward line in the hope of finally ending the run without a goal.
There was a recall for Mustapha Carayol, who has responded positively after being left out for 'attitude reasons' a fortnight ago, and the initial signs were encouraging.
Emmanuel Ledesma shot wide after some neat link up play with Graham and George Friend volleyed following a free-kick which was earned by Lee Tomlin's direct running on the touchline.
There was also an effort from Carayol, who had ran at the Ipswich defence, which deflected for a corner but the visiting goalkeeper Dean Gerken was never posed a serious question until the goal.
He was busier than his Middlesbrough counterpart Konstantopoulos. The Greek shot-stopper was preferred ahead of Jason Steele to replace injured Tomas Mejias and he spent most of the opening 45 minutes as an onlooker.
Konstantopoulos should have been tested when Daryl Murphy's blocked shot fell kindly for Paul Taylor in the box. Instead, though, Taylor fired a first time shot over when he should have hit the target.
Shortly after, though, Middlesbrough went ahead. Carayol's charge down the line turned defence in to attack. He was then allowed to cut inside and shoot.
Gerken parried the low drive and that paved the way for Graham to pounce and power over the line to grab his first goal since December.
And he had his second just before the break when he jumped at the near post to glance a Grant Leadbitter corner inside the far post with a lovely header.
The second half was very routine. Konstantopoulos was still not tested, while Middlesbrough seemed happy enough to preserve their two goal advantage.
There were a few changes, but Ipswich were unable to break in behind a defence well-drilled despite the absence of Jonathan Woodgate, Daniel Ayala and Rhys Williams.
The wait for a Boro goal – and a win - is over, MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Konstanopoulos; Varga, Gibson, Omeruo, Friend; Chalobah, Leadbitter; Carayol (Main 80), Tomlin (Butterfield 78), Ledesma; Graham (Kamara 72). Subs: Steele (gk), Williams L, Atkinson, Morris.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Green, Skuse, Tabb (Williams 72), Taylor (Ebanks-Blake 69); Nouble (Hyam 46), Murphy. Subs: Loach, Anderson, Hunt, Mings.
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