Middlesbrough on crest of a wave

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MIDDLESBROUGH made it five straight npower Championship victories and moved up to second in the table as they came from behind to beat Charlton.

Rob Hulse fired the Addicks into an early lead on Saturday – the first time they had scored first at The Valley since their opening game against Leicester on August 21.

But once Jonathan Woodgate levelled with a header, Boro went on to boss proceedings, with Scott McDonald scoring his fourth goal in three games and Emmanuel Ledesma made it three with a superb chipped finish.

Richie Smallwood capped an impressive win with a well-taken fourth.

Boro boss Tony Mowbray admitted that the toll of three games in seven days, not to mention the travelling involved, had taken a toll on his players early on, but he was also sympathetic towards opposite number Chris Powell too.

“In the last 20 minutes we were impressive. Charlton asked us a lot of questions the first hour or so. But we had six hours on the coach, so I can forgive them the first 20 minutes,” he said.

“We got confidence by coming from behind against Bolton last week and I thought we finished the game really strongly but it was a bit harsh on Charlton.

“As we know from last season, when you don’t win at home for a time it becomes more difficult – the team feel that.”

Middlesbrough, fresh from beating Sunderland in the Capital One Cup, had captain Woodgate back in their starting line-up, while midfielder Nicky Bailey was up against his former club.

The home side made a bright start as Brad Pritchard linked up well with Wright-Phillips, but the youngster’s header cleared the crossbar.

The Addicks took the lead in the 12th minute when the lively Pritchard played the ball through to Hulse and he thumped past Jason Steele from the edge of the box.

Chris Powell’s men pushed on in search of a second as a Wright-Phillips strike deflected wide and Michael Morrison’s overhead-kick failed to trouble the keeper.

Boro’s response came from Bailey as he fired across goal but Martin Hamer did well to gather.

It was all square in the 27th minute when Woodgate was left unmarked in the box and headed home Grant Leadbitter’s inviting free-kick.

Johnnie Jackson was gifted the ball by Andre Bikey but lashed wide, while Hulse should have done better with a near-post header which went harmlessly over.

And Charlton continued to dominate as half-time approached but Morrison headed wide under pressure from Steele and Jackson’s curling free-kick cleared the crossbar.

Lawrie Wilson, who was struggling with a thigh problem in the closing stages of the first half, failed to reappear after the break, with Dale Stephens coming on.

Faris Haroun was denied by Hamer, before sloppy play from Morrison in midfield allowed Josh McEachran to set McDonald clear and he made no mistake from 12 yards.

Charlton tried to hit back as Pritchard flicked on for Wright-Phillips but his shot on the turn was straight at Steele.

But Middlesbrough made the game safe in the 63rd minute with a route one goal.

A long punt upfield from Steele was helped on by McDonald into the path of Ledesma and he lobbed the ball over Hamer from 20 yards.

McDonald was denied a second by a superb save from Hamer, while Charlton substitute Danny Haynes sent over a superb cross which only just eluded Hulse.

There was still time for Boro striker Jutkiewicz to hit a post before Smallwood slid in to score a fourth and seal a memorable victory for Mowbray’s men.

Charlton: Hamer, Wilson (Stephens 46), Morrison, Cort (Haynes 76), Solly, Pritchard, Kerkar, Dervite, Jackson, Hulse, Wright-Phillips (Cook 75). Subs not used: Button, Taylor, Green, Hollands. Booked: Pritchard. Goals: Hulse 12.

Middlesbrough: Steele, Parnaby, Bikey, Woodgate, Friend, Leadbitter, McEachran (Smallwood 90), Ledesma (Jutkiewicz 66), Bailey, McDonald, Haroun (Hoyte 90). Subs not used: Leutwiler, Zemmama, Halliday, Reach. Booked: Friend, Woodgate. Goals: Woodgate 27, McDonald 53, Ledesma 63, Smallwood 90.

Att: 17,736 Ref: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).