Town denied with last kick of the season
Martyn Waghorn and Bart Bialkowski fittingly had a major say for Town as the season ended but Patrick Bamford had the final word with a last second equalier.
Waghorn, Blues’ leading scorer took his tally to 16 goals for the campaign with a penalty seven minutes from time after Championship debutant Shane McLoughlin had been caught by Ben Gibson.
Freddie Sears gave Blues the perfect start with his second goal in successive games but Play-Off bound Boro were level through Stewart Downing midway through the second-half.
Middlesbrough camped around the Town box for the last five minutes but couldn’t find a way past the brilliant Bialkowski, who saved with every part of his body until Bamford struck with the last touch of the game.
Cameron Carter-Vickers returned to the side after injury, with Sears starting up front in the two changes from the team that beat Reading so comprehensively last weekend.
Waghorn was just wide with an early effort after Cole Skuse set him up, then the August signing from Rangers saw his corner hit the outside of the post as Town started on the front foot.
On eight minutes Blues were ahead, Sears escaped down the right and arrowed his shot perfectly into the far corner, before jumping into the arms of Town kitman James Pullen in celebration.
Boro responded with Muhamed Besic having a shot blocked, then having another effort sail over the bar after a spell of possession around the Town box.
Skuse tried his luck from distance, Downing ran out of space as he tried to get behind Blues’ defence, Bialkowski then doing well to punch clear from Britt Assombalonga.
Boro turned up the heat on the Town goal, George Friend had a shot blocked by Carter-Vickers, then the Boro left-back sent in a teasing cross that Bialkowski smothered at the feet of Assombalonga.
Adam Webster had an anxious look when he deflected Downing’s cross just past the post, then from the corner Boro were even closer to an equaliser when Callum Connolly cleared off the line.
Sears posed a threat at the other end with a direct run and cross that Ben Gibson eventually cleared, the former West Ham striker then having a shot blocked by Friend as Town maintained the advantage to the break.
Connolly did well to block Adama Traore’s strike after he threatened to put Boro level two minutes into the second-half, Bialkowski then grabbing Assombalonga’s flick as he diverted Downing’s shot goalwards from six yards.
Waghorn countered for Town and after exchanging passes with Sears he forced an excellent save from Darren Randolph. Seconds later the Republic of Ireland international ‘keeper did even better to tip over Skuse’s blistering volley.
Bamford replaced Jonny Howson on the hour mark in the game’s first change and immediately made an impact, bursting clear and setting up Assombalonga but Boro failed to capitalise.
Sears threatened a second for Town but his shot was deflected to safety by Gibson, likewise at the other end as Downing sent a left footer goalwards from 15 yards.
It was Downing who provided the equaliser on 70 minutes - his right foot doing the trick from the edge of the box, his shot going through a sea of players.
Downing turned creator seconds later, his excellent pass releasing the ever-willing Friend but his control let him down, then Bialkowski did brilliantly to keep out Assombalonga’s fierce shot as Boro pressed for a second.
McLoughlin became the latest Academy graduate to progress to the first-team, replacing Tristan Nydam for the final stages, Luke Hyam also entering the fray for Connolly.
Randolph saved from Jordan Spence, then on 78 minutes the crowd saluted the FA Cup success 40 years ago to the day with a minute’s applause.
Town were back in front on 83 minutes, Waghorn scoring from the penalty spot after McLoughin was caught in the box by Gibson.
Sears almost grabbed a third straight after, Waghorn releasing him but Randolph was equal to the task. It was Town’s ‘keeper who starred though, Bialkowski dfenying Boro three times before Bamford headed home from a corner in added on time.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence (Woolfenden 87), Webster, Carter-Vickers, Knudsen, Kenlock, Nydam (McLoughlin 75), Connolly (Hyam 75), Skuse, Waghorn, Sears. Subs not used: Crowe, Gleeson, Morris, Cotter, Woolfenden. Booked: Skuse, Nydam, Sears.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend, Ayala, Shotton, Gibson, Clayton (Harrison 83), Assombalonga, Howson (Bamford 60), Downing, Besic, Traore. Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Fabio, Leadbitter, Cranie, Fry. Booked: Ayala, Gibson.