B TEAM HOSTS BLACKPOOL ON TUESDAY

A goal and a night that will live long in the memory.

Boro extended their stunning Championship stretch with yet another win in the most dramatic circumstances at Blackpool.

Andraz Sporar looked to have made it three wins in a row for Boro with his second half strike, only for Shayne Lavery for equalise in stoppage time for the hosts.

But substitute Duncan Watmore struck deep in stoppage time to snatch the points on a night that will be long remembered by the sell-out away following.

Here are the takeaways:

Blackpool team

On Tuesday, the chances of this game going ahead looked slim.

It was injuries rather than covid-cases that led Neil Critchley to claim he was one or two more absentees away from being in "dangerous territory", but with tests scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning pre-match, there was a real fear on Teesside that the plug would be pulled at short notice.

Even late afternoon on Wednesday, the thousands of Teessiders who made the trip and packed out the away end will have been dreading a last minute repeat of the Hull vs Blackburn Boxing Day postponement.

No news was good news, and Blackpool's attempts to get the game called off were unsuccessful, no doubt to the relief of Boro's squad who had made the trip on Tuesday and who will have been desperate to play and continue their Championship charge.

As it turned out, Blackpool, while without key men, were able to name a relatively strong team. Critchley was forced to change shape and matched up Boro with a 3-5-2. The hosts' real problem came in the middle of park, where they were without a recognised centre-midfielder, defender Callum Connolly playing in the holding role.

Wilder, too, had to tinker in the centre, with Jonny Howson missing the game. He brought Sol Bamba into the defence and pushed Paddy McNair, captain for the night, forward into midfield. Lee Peltier replaced Neil Taylor in the other change from the team that beat Forest on Boxing Day.

Flat first half - but Boro still should lead

Given the fact Boro put in an almighty effort to beat in-form Forest just three days ago, it's understandable that they were not quite themselves in the first half at Bloomfield Road.

They didn't play badly, rather just lacked some of the energy and oomph we've seen in a recent weeks. It was a bit flat.

And yet they still could very easily have been three goals to the good at the break, Peltier, Sporar and Hernandez all going close.

Boro's first chance, for Peltier, came 10 minutes in after a bright opening, with Paddy McNair charging from deep and drilling in a cross that should have been turned in.

The next 20 minutes or was scrappy and sloppy, Boro the better team but not at their flowing best.

They finished the opening period on top, though, with Sporar coming close to adding to his recent strikes when he started and almost finished a fine move, his shot blocked.

His strike partner Hernandez was quiet in the first half but had the best chance when a ricochet played him in one-on-one with only Dan Grimshaw to beat, but his effort was tame and saved by the legs of the keeper.

Boro live dangerously after the break

Boro should have been ahead at the break but were fortunate to not be behind early in the second half, Blackpool bright out of the blocks and twice going close.

First Connolly's shot was deflected narrowly wide of the post, before Madine hit it with a looping header. His strike partner Yates raced in for the rebound but Sol Bamba bravely put his head where plenty wouldn't put their boot and won a free-kick.

Boro needed a spark, and although Hernandez's shot just before the hour mark flashed wide, it acted as something of a wake-up call. From Boro's next attack, they were ahead.

Sporar can't stop scoring, assisted by star man

If Boro were going to find a breakthrough, it was always likely to come from a couple of players: their brightest on the night Isaiah Jones or their form man Andraz Sporar.

As it turned out, one teed up the other for the crucial opener.

All of Boro's first half chances came down the right side, Jones a bundle of energy who had the better of former Boro man James Husband all night. He got in behind the Blackpool defence and picked out Sporar, who cleverly steered home with a class back-heel, before pulling off his short and celebrating in front of the fans who had serenaded him all night.

Sporar scored three goals in his first 17 for Boro, but has doubled that tally in his last three games, quickly establishing himself as the side's talisman under Wilder.

He was replaced quarter of an hour after his goal, to a roar of recognition from the away fans who had chanted his name again and again.

Remarkable late show

Boro turned it on at the Riverside to beat Bournemouth and Forest, dazzling with their high-tempo and easy on the eye football.

This was a different sort of victory, but equally as important and impressive.

Boro weren't at their best at Bloomfield Road, a slight dip perhaps inevitable at some stage during this hectic Christmas period. But they still looked as though they were going to see it out and notch their fifth successive clean sheet, only for a cruel late blow when Shayne Lavery looked to have broken Boro hearts with a stoppage time equaliser.

But there was another twist in a brilliant and chaotic finale, Boro's spirit and strength of character shining through as they went up the other end and won it, Jones yet again the creator and substitute Duncan Watmore stabbing home.

The away stand was shaking.

That 13 points from a possible 15, a stunning run of form from a side who had been plagued by inconsistency in the early stages of the season.

Yes, teams below have games in hand, but Boro have forced their way into the top six with a stretch of results that will have rivals extremely concerned. And the best thing - you can't help but feel the best is still to come.

Source : https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/blackpool-1-2-middlesbrough-boros-22600010

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