MIDDLESBROUGH will spend another season in the Championship – their seventh successive – after losing 2-0 to Norwich City in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Boro were desperately poor, at times hopeless, against a Norwich side whose organisation and game plan stifled Boro’s with their two goals coming in three first-half minutes.
Three minutes after both Bradley Johnson for Norwich and Jelle Vossen for Boro cracked the crossbar, Boro fell behind in the 12th minute.
Lackadaisical defending from Daniel Ayala and Dean Whitehead allowed Cameron Jerome to saunter into the box from the left and without being challenged he coolly stroked the ball beyond Dimi Konstantopoulos.
180 seconds later and the Canaries’ advantage was doubled, Nathan Redmond rushing into the box from the centre and taking the ball away from Ben Gibson to shoot from an acute angle into the bottom corner.
A shaken Boro struggled to recover in the remaining 30 minutes of the half, fleeting crosses that posed no trouble all they conjured up.
Patrick Bamford, who started the game at the expense of Kike but looked half-fit, tested John Ruddy in the 58th minute with a turn and shot from the edge of the box.
Norwich, defending tightly to keep Boro at bay, went close to adding a third in the 69th minute when Russell Martin leapt above Ben Gibson to power a header slightly above the bar. Nathan Redmond then arced a free-kick just wide of the framework.
Lee Tomlin dribbled through a crowded box with ten minutes left but failed to shoot for Boro, before Ayala’s goal-bound header with ten minutes left was blocked by Lewis Grabban – Boro’s last chance.
Boro: Konstantopoulos, Whitehead (Nsue, 46), Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Adomah, Clayton, Leadbitter, Tomlin; Bamford, Vossen (Kike, 68). Subs not used: Ripley, Amorebieta, Forshaw, Reach, Woodgate. Bookings: Vossen 56
Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson; Redmond (O’Neil, 86), Howson, Tettey, Hoolahan (Dorrans, 74), Johnson; Jerome (Grabban, 74). Subs not used: Rudd, Hooper, E. Bennett, R. Bennett. Bookings: Howson 62. Scorers: Jerome, 12; Redmond, 15
Attendance: 85,636 Referee: Mike Dean