Full-time: Rochdale 1 Middlesbrough 3
SUMMER signing Kike gave Middlesbrough fans a glimpse of things to come at Spotland today when he got his first goal on English soil – and he could have had more.
While talks continue behind the scenes in a bid to conclude a £500,000 deal with Doncaster for young left-back James Husband, Aitor Karanka’s first major signing of the close-season turned in an encouraging display to help defeat Rochdale.
Kike, a £2.7m buy from Real Murcia a fortnight ago, slotted in a 15th minute penalty after he was tripped following a fine run in behind the defence to latch on to Richie Smallwood’s through pass.
The Spaniard, who has now scored three during pre-season, had already made a few other similar runs, which led to a couple of chances, and he would have had more had it not been for the performance of Josh Lillis in the Dale goal.
Before he had scored, Adam Reach had given Middlesbrough the lead inside four minutes.
The young winger, who spent time on loan at Bradford last season, is keen to impress at the Riverside next season and he curled in a brilliant volley from the edge of the area after a corner had been half cleared to him.
Lee Tomlin saw a free-kick palmed away from finding the top corner by Lillis shortly before Ian Henderson pulled one back for the hosts from League One four minutes before half-time.
But Tomlin did not have to wait long to celebrate a goal. The former Peterborough forward earned a penalty when he was tripped by Ollie Lancashire and converted the penalty himself to give Middlesbrough a 3-1 lead at the break.
Kike was replaced at the break by the academy graduate Bradley Fewster, who could have had a penalty, and there were less chances created.
Tomas Mejias, signed permanently from Real Madrid this summer, held a few shots which came his way, while Reach was denied by Lillis on a couple of occasions. During the last 15 minutes Karanka used all of his outfield substitutes.
By the time Middlesbrough face Hartlepool on Wednesday, Karanka will hope to have more new signings on show. Husband, 20, looks the most likely after making significant progress with Doncaster over the terms of a deal.
One potential hurdle to overcome is that Curtis Main has not rushed in to accepting a move to the Keepmoat, which could mean further haggling if he indicates an unwillingness to leave Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough are also confident that a further loan for Chelsea defender Kenneth Omeruo will take place, while a new midfielder and forward is still on the wish-list.
Rochdale: Lillis; Rafferty, Henderson, Lancashire, Donnelly; Hery (Vincenti 27), Lund, Done, Allen; Andrew, Tanser. Subs: Bennett, McGinty , Barry-Murphy, Musangu, Collis, Rose, Logan, Cannon, Camps, Bunney.
Middlesbrough: Mejias; Atkinson (Bennett 75), Ayala (Burgess 81), Gibson, Friend; Smallwood (Morris 75), Butterfield; Halliday (Adomah 75), Tomlin (Williams 81), Reach; Kike (Fewster 46). Subs (not used): Konstantopoulos (gk).
SUMMER SIGNING WATCH
Held everything that came his way, including a couple of long range strikes. He came to punch things when he needed to and his general decision making was good at the start of his battle with Dimi Konstantopoulos for the starting role.
A lot of pressure will be on the £2.7m buy from Real Murcia to deliver and justify his price-tag next season and he has started strongly. He emerged through 45 minutes of action confidently and with a goal. His runs behind the defence caused problems and he could have had more than one.