MIDDLESBROUGH claimed back-to-back home wins for the first time this season as they saw off Charlton Athletic at the Riverside on Saturday.

George Saville’s first-minute strike settled things, lifting Jonathan Woodgate’s four points clear of the Championship relegation zone.


From the minute he embarked on his first surge up the right touchline, it was clear Djed Spence was not going to be overawed by his Championship debut. The 19-year-old set the tone for Middlesbrough’s display, with his team-mates only too happy to feed off his enthusiasm.

“Djed came in at right wing-back, and it felt as though it gave the team a real lift,” said George Saville. “He’s fast, energetic and I saw that right across the team.

“He’s a young lad, but he’s tough. We’re obviously not where we want to be as a team at the moment, but he’s stepped in and shown some real courage. Especially in that first half, I felt as if he gave the whole team a real lift.”


George Saville was signed as a goalscoring midfielder, but the Northern Ireland international has struggled to make much of an impact since moving to Teesside from Millwall.

He only scored four goals last season, and while he has been in and out of the team this term, he had not broken his duck prior to Saturday. However, when a chance presented itself just 50 seconds in, he was composed enough to be able to slot a neat finish past Dillon Phillips.

“I had a few games before the Derby game and started to get into my stride, but the red card (at Pride Park) was obviously really hard to take,” he said. “You feel like you’ve let the side down, so when you do come back from suspension, you’re even more determined and you want to step up.”


Middlesbrough have claimed four victories under Jonathan Woodgate – and all four have come courtesy of a 1-0 scoreline. That hints at a lack of cutting edge, but also suggests a resolve and resilience at the other end of the field.

Prior to Saturday, Boro had beaten Wigan, Reading and Barnsley 1-0, and now they have also seen off Charlton by the same margin. All four sides are in and around Boro in the bottom half of the table, therefore all four were crucial wins.

It also telling that all four successes came at the Riverside. Woodgate’s side have produced some creditable away displays, but it is on home soil that their fate over the remainder of the campaign will almost certainly be sealed.


The build-up to Saturday’s game was dominated by discussions relating to Jonathan Woodgate’s shared history with Charlton boss Lee Bowyer. The pair were team-mates at Leeds, but it was Woodgate who was smiling as they shook hands on Saturday night. Bowyer was frustrated with his side’s desperately poor performance, and didn’t sugar-coat things after the game.

“It wasn’t good enough,” said the Charlton boss. “From the first whistle, they were better than us. There’s not many times I’ve watched a game and we’ve been that poor.

“It’s not like our side. Our side is normally fighting and competing, but it’s not like it was just one or two, it was everybody. I don’t know why. They just looked nervous in possession.”


Britt Assombalonga’s injury cast a shadow over Saturday’s game, and having left the Riverside on crutches, the striker is unlikely to be involved in tomorrow’s game at Nottingham Forest.

However, Boro will have some key names returning at the City Ground. Paddy McNair and Marvin Johnson have both completed their suspensions, and will go straight back into the squad. Rudy Gestede is back in training and could replace Assombalonga up front, while Marcus Browne and Lewis Wing both have an outside chance of being involved.

“Lewis had a knee problem,” said Woodgate. “He had a scan on it on Friday. Nothing showed on the scan but he didn’t have the stability, he didn’t think he could trust his knee on the change of direction. We need players who are at least 90 per cent to 100, and he wasn’t that.”