Nugent strikes again at Portman Road as Boro go top to end Town's six match unbeaten runTown suffered a first defeat in seven games as the nemesis that is David Nugent struck again at Portman Road.
The Middlesbrough striker has scored in every appearance he has made at the ground and made it 10 goals in eight games at the home of Blues to put the visitors in control 15 minutes from time.
Town had edged the first-half with Dimitrios Konstantopoulos the busier of the two ‘keepers but the Riverside club made the breakthrough early in the second-half through Christian Stuani’s header.
Nugent then added to the advantage with his 15th goal in 14 appearances against Town with a left foot finish as Blues missed out on a chance to move into the Play-Offs and Boro went top of the Championship.
Town kept with the same side that beat Charlton last week, Adam McDonnell handed a place on the bench with Tommy Oar ruled out with a knee injury.
Freddie Sears had a shot deflected wide from close range in the game’s first opening, then Stewart Downing broke clear but couldn’t make it count.
Brett Pitman tested Konstantopoulos from distance, Stuani volleying at Dean Gerken at the other end from Albert Adomah’s pass in an even opening to the game. Daryl Murphy headed on from Jonas Knudsen’s free-kick but as Pitman waited to pounce, Ben Gibson cleared.
Konstantopoulos saved well from Pitman’s fierce drive after Murphy had escaped down the right, Tommy Smith then in the right place to cut out the danger as former Blue, Grant Leadbitter, tried to find Nugent in the box.
Konstantopoulos was forced into action again, denying Luke Chambers from close range as Blues edged closer to a breakthrough, the Boro ‘keeper then punching clear from Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ free-kick.
Maitland-Niles did well to track the run of George Friend as the visitors carved out an overlap in Town’s box, Gibson picking up a yellow card for a foul on Pitman 35 yards from goal but the summer signing from Bournemouth fired the free-kick well over as the first-half came to an end in deadlock.
Pitman was much closer to finding the net inside the first minute of the second-half, his header from Maitland-Niles’ cross saved by Konstantopoulos.
Boro responded with Leadbitter bringing a brilliant save out of Gerken from six yards out, the midfielder then yellow carded for a foul on Sears.
It was the visitors who edged in front on 53 minutes, Adomah’s superb cross headed home by Stuani at the far post. Pitman headed over as Blues looked for an immediate reaction, Christophe Berra penalised with a booking after stopping Nugent in his tracks.
Gerken got down well to save from Downing before Town made a first change, Maitland-Niles replaced by Giles Coke just past the hour.
Downing had another effort deflected just wide, Stuani wide at the near post from Friend’s cross.
Nugent does what Nugent does at Portman Road 16 minutes from time, the striker took a pass from Downing and buried a left foot strike into the bottom corner with a slight deflection off Smith to put daylight between the teams.
Konstantopoulos saved again from Jonas Knudsen as the Denmark international went close to cutting the deficit but Boro continued to look dangerous on the break, Gerken preventing Downing making it three, then Chambers clearing off the line from Adomah.
David McGoldrick came off the bench for the last five minutes but Aitor Karanka’s side held firm to move into pole position for promotion with a first win at Town in 23 years.
Town: Gerken, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Knudsen, Skuse, Douglas, Maitland-Niles (Coke 62), Sears, Murphy, Pitman (McGoldrick 85). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Malarczyk, Parr, Tabb, McDonnell. Booked: Berra.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter, Clayton, Stuani (Forshaw 84), Downing, Adomah, Nugent. Subs not used: Mejias, Amorebieta, Kike, Kalas, Fabbrini, Zuculini. Booked: Gibson, Leadbitter. Att: 17,662