Middlesbrough reach third place after taking sting out of Hornets at Riverside
Middlesbrough leapfrogged Watford to move into third position in the Sky Bet Championship table as they claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over the Hornets at the Riverside.
First-half goals from Chuba Akpom and Marcus Forss enabled Boro to bounce back in impressive fashion following last weekend’s North East derby defeat by Sunderland.
Michael Carrick’s side were dominant throughout, with January signing Cameron Archer impressing as he made his first start for the club.
Archer had recorded three substitute appearances following his loan move from Aston Villa and his willingness to run beyond the final defender asked questions of the Watford defence all afternoon.
He helped set up Akpom for a third-minute shot that was deflected over and came close to scoring himself shortly after the half-hour mark. An explosive burst of pace enabled him to break between two Watford defenders, but Daniel Bachmann got down to his right to keep out the striker’s low side-footed effort.
Three minutes later, though, and Archer was involved again as Bachmann was beaten. Having been left one-on-one with an exposed Hassane Kamara, Archer broke into the 18-yard box, only for a heavy touch to enable Bachmann to break off his line to block the England Under-21 international’s shot.
Bachmann was at it again when he blocked Akpom’s initial follow-up effort, but the ball looped up invitingly for the Championship’s leading scorer to head home his 14th league goal of the campaign.
The goal was no more than Boro deserved given their first-half dominance and the Teessiders added a second on the stroke of half-time.
Jonny Howson picked out Forss with a perfectly weighted through ball and, after darting across the face of the area, the Finnish forward slotted a clinical strike into the bottom right-hand corner.
Watford’s only first-half effort of note came to nothing when Matheus Martins curled over from the corner of the box, and the fact that Slaven Bilic made three half-time changes summed up what the Hornets boss must have made of his side’s performance before the break.
The visitors improved slightly as a result of the alterations, but Tommy Smith produced an excellent challenge to block substitute Tobi Adeyemo’s shot after Watford broke downfield following a Boro corner.
That proved a rare moment of alarm for the hosts, and Carrick’s side almost added a third goal midway through the second half when Bachmann parried Hayden Hackney’s shot. Moments later, an unmarked Paddy McNair fired wide at the back post after Ryan Giles’ cross fell into his path.