Boro moved back into the top two of the Championship, for 24 hours at least, with an impressive 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday. Gareth Southgate's side had to recover from the early setback of Luke Varney's spectacular goal but ended the game comfortable winners.
Southgate made one change to his line up, with Jeremie Aliadiere's two goals against Ipswich earning him a start in preference to Leroy Lita. After completing a three month loan deal (with a view to a permanent move), Sean St Ledger was named on the bench.
It was Brian Laws' Owls who started quicker. Varney skipped past a flat footed Tony McMahon and slammed the ball home via the underside the crossbar. Boro were now faced with the task of coming from behind to win for the first time since a FA Cup tie at Bristol City in January 2008.
Boro's equaliser came with some assistance from the home team. Towering centre half Darren Purse tried to deal with Adam Johnson's curling cross but succeeded only in glancing beyond the grasp of Wednesday keeper Lee Grant. Johnson may have given Boro the lead before the break but his effort was ruled out for offside.
The visitors stamped their supremacy on the game after the break. Gary O'Neil intercepted a sloppy free kick and passed to Emnes, allowing the Dutchman to pick out Jeremie Aliadiere's surging run. The Frenchman beat the closing Grant with a composed left foot finish for his third goal in four days. Boro continued to pile on the pressure and could have sealed the game with another goal. However, Grant somehow managed to keep his side in the game with a superb tumbling save from Seb Hines' header.
Wednesday came back into the game, enjoying greater possession without building any penetrative attacks. Boro continued to look a threat on the break with Adam Johnson jinking past defenders at will. It was Johnson who secured the points for Boro with a third goal five minutes from time after some neat build-up. Aladiere latched onto Rhys Williams' pass into the channel and ferried the ball back to Gary O'Neil, who picked out Johnson at the far post. The winger cut inside and fired his sixth goal of the season into the bottom corner of Grant's goal.
Once again, Boro may have lacked fluency but were still too good for mediocre opposition. Johnson is quite simply a cut above the vast majority of players at this level and even derided squad members like Aliadiere and Julio Arca appear to be much more comfortable at this level. The young defence may have had the occasional wobble but still defendly stoutly for the most part. That department will be bolstered for the next three months at least by the proven Championship quality of St Ledger.
The Preston defender may only be the start of this week's recruitment. Widespread media reports suggest Gareth Southgate will increase his attacking options by signing Hull targetman Caleb Folan and/or injury-prone Everton youngster James Vaughan on loan.
West Brom's visit on Saturday will provide the sternest test of the season so far. For the time being, Boro seem in good shape for the battle ahead.