Sporar spot-on for Middlesbrough as Bournemouth’s poor run continues
Middlesbrough’s improvement under Chris Wilder continued as they made it 10 points from four matches with victory over out-of-form Bournemouth thanks to an Andraz Sporar penalty.
The Boro manager was full of praise for the evergreen Neil Taylor after the 32-year-old impressed on his first start for the club at left wing-back. He joined as a free agent last month having been unable to find a club following his release from Aston Villa last summer. “I’m delighted for Neil,” said Wilder. “I knew of his availability and the club allowed us to bring him in, which I’m thankful for. He’s come in and played well, and gives us balance and competition in that position.”
Sporar’s second-half penalty settled things at the Riverside, the Slovenian slotting home after Isaiah Jones was fouled on the corner of the box. Bournemouth had only themselves to blame as they missed out on the chance to move to the top of the Championship, with Dominic Solanke and Ryan Christie failing to hit the target from excellent chances in the first half.
The away fans were faced with a 636-mile round trip for the lunchtime kick-off, with supporters’ coaches having left at 3am. They would have been alarmed by the brightness of Middlesbrough’s start but impressed with the reflexes of Mark Travers after the onrushing Matt Crooks met Jones’s low cross with a first-time side-footed shot, only for the Bournemouth goalkeeper to fling out his left hand to keep the ball out.
The Cherries gradually got a hold of things in midfield and became increasingly dominant. Solanke headed a Christie cross wide as half-time approached, although Travers was forced into his second fine save of the game just before the break. Anfernee Dijksteel’s scuffed shot was heading in after taking a deflection off Lloyd Kelly, but the goalkeeper got down well to claw the ball to safety.
It was a decent chance but Bournemouth wasted an even better one in first-half stoppage time. Christie looked certain to score when he met Jaidon Anthony’s low cross on the edge of the six-yard box but his shot cannoned into the turf before looping over the bar.
Middlesbrough went close shortly after the break. Jones sent Sporar through the middle but Travers saved with a foot. Tavernier’s follow-up header was cleared to Duncan Watmore, whose first-time volley flew over the bar
Three minutes later, Middlesbrough were ahead. Jones’s surging run was halted when he was bundled over by Anthony. Sporar stepped up to take the penalty and rolled home his fourth league goal of the season.
Joe Lumley pushed away Junior Stanislas’s long-range free-kick as Bournemouth tried to rally, but Scott Parker’s side never really looked like getting back on level terms.
The Bournemouth manager said: “You have to weather these moments, and understand there’s always going to be a bit of a blip and some adversity along the way.
“I’m still learning new things about this team and this group of players. This is a young team and, for the first time for three or four of these players, they’re in a campaign where they’re trying to get promoted. Every game they go to is a big one.”