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Match Reports

Middlesbrough v Norwich City

25 May 2015


NORWICH City produced one of their best performances of the season to beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final, earning an instant return to the Premier League.

Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond scored within three minutes of each other early in the first half at Wembley to set up one of the most memorable victories in the Club's history.

If the opening 45 minutes contained high quality passing football, the second half was a story of resilience as Alex Neil's men stood firm against an improved 'Boro side.

Triumph and promotion were fully deserved in the end as close to 40,000 travelling City supporters witnessed history, with their heroes finally banishing memories of last season's relegation.

The achievement caps a remarkable period in charge for Neil, who took over the reins with the Club in seventh place in the division but lost only three of his 25 matches.

City will now join Bournemouth and Watford in the top flight for 2014-15, but the players are set to enjoy three weeks off at the end of a rollercoaster of a campaign.

Neil kept faith with the team that beat Ipswich Town 3-1 in the play-off semi-final second leg at Carrow Road nine days previously.

That meant Lewis Grabban, who was available again after suspension, had to settle for a place among the substitutes, with Josh Murphy the man to drop out of the matchday squad.

Middlesbrough were buoyed by the return of league Player of the Season Patrick Bamford for their only change, but their preparations were hindered after arriving to Wembley close to half an hour late.

City showed their intent from the offset and were inches away from a ninth minute advantage - Jerome missed his header but the ball fell to Bradley Johnson, who rifled a half volley against the crossbar.

Incredibly, within a minute the woodwork came to City's rescue as Sebastien Bassong made hard work of a clearance before Jelle Vossen powered a left-footed drive from range off the frame of the goal.

The intensity of the game ratcheted up after these two dramatic incidents, but it was the Canaries who were holding onto the ball with class and consistency and they got their reward on 12 minutes.

Former City defender Ayala was caught in possession in the corner by Jerome, who was allowed to advance into the area before slotting the ball home, beating Dimitrios Konstantopoulos at his near post.

Then three minutes later, City supporters' joy turned to ecstasy as they doubled their lead after a flowing team move move.

It was Steven Whittaker who provided the crucial pass into Redmond, and the winger took a touch past Ben Gibson and found the bottom corner with a confident finish.

Just as much as the goals, it was the football being played by Alex Neil's men that was catching the attention, with Middlesbrough at times chasing shadows in a superb first half.

Vossen's glancing header that drifted well wide was the closest the Teessiders came to a goal, but in truth they were far inferior to the Canaries in the opening 45 minutes.

HALF-TIME: Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City

Aitor Karanka reacted to his team's display by making a half-time change as Emilio Nsue came on for Dean Whitehead.

Nsue combined well with Albert Adomah to force the half's first corner on 50 minutes, from which Ayala nodded a header over Ruddy's bar.

Middlesbrough were putting the Canaries under some pressure but Belgian striker Vossen was booked on 56 minutes, with Mike Dean adjudging the striker to have dived in the box under challenge from Whittaker.

Ruddy then had to be sharp to deny Bamford, who took Tomlin's pass before swivelling and getting a shot away at goal.

City had to try and push out from their deep defensive line and they eventually slowed the pace of the game down, with Karanka opting for another switch on 68 minutes when Kike replaced Vossen.

Skipper Russell Martin could have strengthened his team's position further a minute later when he rose to meet Redmond's corner, but his header was always rising over the bar.

With 15 minutes left on the clock, Neil made a double change as Jerome and Wes Hoolahan made way for Grabban and Graham Dorrans.

Redmond curled a free-kick wide, before Grabban made a vital contribution up the other end, blocking Ayala's free header in front of the goalline as Boro chipped away at City's solid defensive shape.

Play-off final lucky charm Gary O'Neil came on for the final three minutes, and the Norwich supporters joined together in a final chorus of 'On The Ball, City' as their team secured an instant return to the top flight.

FULL-TIME: Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City

GOALS: Canaries: Cameron Jerome (12), Nathan Redmond (15)

MIDDLESBROUGH: Konstantopoulos; Whitehead (Nsue 45), Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Adomah, Leadbitter, Clayton, Tomlin; Vossen (Kike 68); Bamford. Subs not used: Ripley (GK), Forshaw, Reach, Amorebieta, Woodgate.

NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin (c), Bassong, Olsson; Redmond (O'Neil 87), Howson, Tettey, Johnson; Hoolahan (Dorrans 75); Jerome (Grabban 74). Subs not used: Rudd (GK), Hooper, E Bennett, R Bennett, O'Neil.

REFEREE: Mike Dean


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