MIDDLESBROUGH boss Aitor Karanka hailed Danny Graham after the on-loan striker finally ended a 12-hour goal drought in Saturday’s Riverside Stadium win over Ipswich.
On-loan Sunderland striker Graham stabbed home a spilled shot from close range midway through the first half – Boro’s first goal in eight games – then headed a second just before the break.
And after the opener the £5million striker buzzed about and created all kinds of problems for the Town defence as Boro played with the shackles off.
“I was happy for Danny,” said Karanka. “After the goal he demonstrated he is a very good Premier League player.
“He showed exactly the kind of player he is with typical striker’s goals from close range. I’m happy for him because he deserves to score.
“He came here to help us and I know he had a long time without a goal.
“It’s good for him to score because strikers thrive on confidence and that will do him a power of good.
“He could be forgiven for thinking he’s more important than the other players here because he’s come from the Premier League, but he’s a very humble hard-working player who deserves his rewards.”
And the Boro boss admitted he was relieved to end a barren spell – but insisted he was never worried.
“Finally, the goals arrived and I’m very happy. Firstly, our supporters deserved to see us scoring goals and winning and secondly it’s great for my team to reward their hard work,” he said. “But I was never worried. I always believed 100 per cent in myself and in the team”
Scathing Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy admitted his team got what they deserved.
“We were second best, we got nothing and deserved nothing,” said the ex-Sunderland manager. “We didn’t compete and that wasn’t like us. If I knew why I’d put it immediately right.”
Boro had a good early chance as Emmanuel Ledesma played a one-two with Graham on the edge of the box before firing a low shot just wide.
Then, on 12 minutes, when a Ledesma free-kick was nodded down by Ben Gibson, George Friend fired over the bar.
Soon after, Mustapha Carayol sent Friend overlapping down the left to cut inside and get into the box but once again he scooped high over the bar.
Ipswich went close on 28 minutes as a Daryl Murphy shot hit defender Kenneth Omeruo and fell at the feet of Paul Taylor 12 yards out. but he also lashed over.
Boro finally ended their long wait for a goal in the 29th minute.
Carayol cut in from the left to fire a stinging shot in and, when goalkeeper Dean Gerken spilled it, the ball feel nicely for Graham to ram home from close range.
And the Teessiders got a second in first-half stoppage time as former Ipswich man Grant Leadbitter whipped in a corner and Graham (right) glanced in a header.
After a slow start to the second period, the visitors threatened just before the hour, Paul Taylor sending an effort bouncing wide through a crowd of players following a free-kick.
And soon after Paul Green carried the ball forward unchallenged only to put a speculative shot from distance well wide.
Ipswich had a clear sight of goal on 66 minutes as Green crossed to the edge of the box for Murphy to turn quickly, but his shot was weak and straight at Boro goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos.
Boro stepped up a gear and went close on 76 minutes as Lee Tomlin sent a 20-yard effort just over.
Then on 79 minutes Kei Kamara streaked down the right and cut inside to drill in a 20-yard attempt which came back off the shins of a defender.
The home team almost snatched a third in stoppage time as Kamara broke down the right and crossed to the far post, where substitute Curtis Main had arrived unmarked, but he could only find the side-netting from close range.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Varga, Gibson, Omeruo, Friend, Ledesma, Leadbitter, Chalobah, Carayol (Main 81), Tomlin (Butterfield 78), Graham (Kamara 72). Subs not used: Morris, Steele, Luke Williams, Atkinson. Booked: Ledesma. Goals: Graham 29, 45.
Ipswich: Gerken, Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell, Green, Skuse, Tabb (Williams 72), Nouble (Hyam 46), Murphy, Taylor (Ebanks-Blake 69). Subs not used: Loach, Anderson, Hunt, Mings. Booked: Hyam, Chambers.
Att: 13,965 Ref: Iain Williamson (Berkshire).