Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis enjoyed “the best performance” of his Riverside reign as Patrick Bamford’s hat-trick inspired a 3-0 Sky Bet Championship win over Leeds United tonight.
Victory took Boro into the play-off places, above Sheffield United on goal difference, while dismal Leeds saw their play-off ambitions suffer a potentially terminal blow.
Pulis made a point of saluting the Riverside staff who managed to get the game on, despite this week’s heavy snow.
Pulis said: “People from the community and our staff turned up for two days to get the pitch and terraces cleared and get the game on.
“It has been a first-class performance from everyone, people who love this club. That certainly inspired me, and this is a can-do area. I’m pleased for the folk who worked for nothing to get this game on.
“It was the best performance since I’ve been here.
“That’s nine goals in three games now and we have played very well. But this win is about the whole club.”
Pulis pinpointed the efforts of striker Bamford, adding: “Patrick deserves to get the plaudits. He is a tremendous talent, and needs to keep it going.
“But there were some good performances around the team. That was front-foot football, I like that. Move the ball quickly and have attempts on goal.”
Disappointed Leeds boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “Boro did well and were on the front foot, but I’m more bothered about us and we just didn’t cope with it.
“Getting beat is part and parcel of football, but sometimes how you get beat is important.
“We were second best here, and that is what hurts. It’s always tough when you know that you’re second best by a margin.”
Boro’s dominance was rewarded shortly after the half-hour mark. Stewart Downing centred from the Boro right flank and Bamford beat defender Pontus Jansson to hit a fine first-time volley past keeper Felix Wiedwald.
It was soon 2-0 as Adam Traore ran from his own half and beat three defenders before He netted again five minutes later.
Adama Traore’s 50-yard burst from deep inside his own half saw him ghost past three Leeds defenders before setting up Bamford, who sent a low shot under the goalkeeper.
Bamford sealed his treble in the 68th minute, firing home after Traore had a shot blocked by Jansson.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Howson, Leadbitter (Clayton 44), Besic, Traore, Bamford (Cranie 90), Downing. Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Assombalonga, Fry, Harrison, Baker. Booked: Leadbitter. Goals: Bamford 31, 36, 68
Leeds Utd: Wiedwald, Berardi, Jansson, Cooper, Anita, O’Kane (Ekuban 69), Phillips (Ronaldo Vieira 46), Alioski (Forshaw 46), Samuel, Dallas, Lasogga. Subs not used: Pennington, De Bock, Sacko, Peacock-Farrell. Booked: Samuel, Anita, Cooper.
Ref: Darren England (Sth Yorkshire).