MIDDLESBROUGH 2-0 WIGAN ATHLETIC: HUGILL BRACE SEES OFF LATICS AND KEEPS BORO IN THE HUNT

Two first-half goals from Jordan Hugill were enough for Boro to pick up their first home league victory since the 19th of September.

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Boro started the game on top with a flurry of chances in the early stages of the match. The first when Adam Clayton’s cross found the head of Hugill, which resulted in Wigan keeper Christian Walton having to turn the ball away for a corner.

Just moments later, Hugill again was at the centre of attention when he headed narrowly wide from a George Friend cross.

Tony Pulis’ team then hit the side netting when a Mo Besic long ball sent Martin Braithwaite through, however the Dane’s strike failed to test Walton.

Wigan then finally had a chance of their own in the 17th minute; a corner was initially cleared away from danger by Boro, before it fell to Josh Windass who could only fire over Darren Randolph’s goal.

Hugill had yet another chance to open the scoring when Downing’s cross found his run, however the West Ham loanee’s header looped onto the roof of the goal.

Some heroic defending followed in the 30th minute and it was a surprise to most in the stadium as to how Boro hadn’t taken the lead yet. A ball into the box resulted in chances for Danny Batth and Aden Flint, however both efforts were cleared off the line.

The breakthrough was finally broken seven minutes before the break though when George Friend was brought down in the area by Cedric Kipre.

Darren England immediately pointed to the spot and up stepped Jordan Hugill to fire past Christian Walton, netting his first league goal for the club.

That tally was soon doubled when Hugill volleyed past Walton after the keeper failed to deal with Martin Braithwaite’s cross into the area.

The brace gave Boro a deserved 2-0 advantage going into half-time. Wigan had been second best all over the pitch and could have little complaints over the scoreline.

Both teams struggled to find their feet after the restart, with the change in weather slowing the tempo of the play down.

The first real piece of second-half action came just before the hour-mark when Jonny Howson picked up the ball on the edge of the box. His low drive deflected off Danny Batth who couldn’t steer the effort goalwards.

Wigan had a period of ten minutes in which they controlled most of the possession, but their dominance failed to pay off and Randolph remained untested.

This came as a huge frustration to Paul Cook and the Wigan fans who saw various pieces of good build-up come to nothing.

Jordan Hugill’s opportunity to claim a hat-trick was cut short with twenty minutes to go when the forward was forced off through injury. On came Britt Assombalonga in his place, a fourth substitute appearance of the season for Boro’s record signing.

Wigan made changes of their own and threw on both Callum McManaman and James Vaughan in an attempt to salvage something from the game.

The former came close to making an instant impact when his whipped effort from the left bent just wide of the Boro goal.

McManaman then had another chance to pull one back, when a poor Assombalonga clearance fell straight into his path, only for the ex-Sunderland man to fire over the target.

A solid second-half performance from Boro ensured they claimed all three points.

Had results elsewhere gone their way, Tony Pulis’ side could have gone top of the Championship table but they’ll have to settle for second for the time being. However in his post-match press conference, Pulis alluded to the fact there is still a long way to go yet.

Trainee Journalist.

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