Middlesbrough’s improvement under Chris Wilder continued as they made it 10 points from four matches with a 1-0 win over Bournemouth.
Andraz Sporar’s second-half penalty settled things at the Riverside, with the Slovenian slotting home after Isaiah Jones was fouled on the corner of the box. Bournemouth had only themselves to blame as they missed out on the chance to move to the top of the Championship, with Dominic Solanke and Ryan Christie failing to hit the target with excellent chances in the first half.
The away fans were faced with a 636-mile round trip for the lunchtime kick-off, with supporters’ coaches having left at 3am. They would have been alarmed by the brightness of Middlesbrough’s start but impressed with the reflexes of Mark Travers after the onrushing Matt Crooks met Jones’s low cross with a first-time side-footed shot, only for the Bournemouth goalkeeper to fling out his left hand to keep the ball out.
Middlesbrough were a threat in the early stages, with Jones and Duncan Watmore making incisive breaks behind the Bournemouth defence, but the Cherries gradually got a hold of things in midfield and became increasingly dominant in terms of possession.
Christie curled a low shot just wide of a post midway through the opening period after robbing the ball off Marcus Tavernier inside the Middlesbrough half, and with the home defence repeatedly playing themselves into trouble, Bournemouth went close again on the half-hour.
Paddy McNair played Jonny Howson into trouble, but although Jaidon Anthony won the ball and broke into the penalty area, he dragged his low shot wide.
With Solanke heading Christie’s cross wide moments later the visitors were well on top as half-time approached, although Travers was forced into his second fine save of the game just before the break. Anfernee Dijksteel’s scuffed shot was heading in after taking a hefty deflection off Lloyd Kelly, but the goalkeeper got down well to claw the ball to safety.
It was a decent chance, but Bournemouth wasted an even better one in first-half stoppage time. Christie looked certain to score when he met Anthony’s low cross on the edge of the six-yard box but his shot cannoned into the turf before looping over the bar.
For all that goals were at a premium the chances kept coming all afternoon, and it was Middlesbrough’s turn to go close five minutes after the break. Jones’s through ball sent Sporar through the middle but his low shot was saved by Travers with a foot. Tavernier’s follow-up header was cleared to Watmore, whose first-time volley flew over the bar.
Three minutes later, however, and Middlesbrough were ahead. Jones’s surging run took him into the area and was only halted when he was bundled over by Anthony. Sporar stepped up to take the penalty and rolled home his fourth league goal of the season.
Joe Lumley pushed away Junior Stanislas’ long-range free-kick as Bournemouth tried to rally, but Scott Parker’s side never really looked like getting back on level terms.