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The 2023/24 season would prove to be one of mixed fortunes for Middlesbrough, with a difficult start to the Championship campaign ultimately ending with a late move up the table and a trip to cup semi-final.
Vertu Motors

Cup Run Highlights Mixed Campaign For Middlesbrough

Cup Run Highlights Mixed Campaign For Middlesbrough

The 2023/24 season would prove to be one of mixed fortunes for Middlesbrough, with a difficult start to the Championship campaign ultimately ending with a late move up the table and a trip to cup semi-final.

Having taken the team from the fringes of the relegation zone to a play-off spot in the previous season, former Manchester United and England midfielder Michael Carrick headed into his first full campaign in charge of the Vertu Motors-backed side, which kicked off at home to Millwall in early August.

It would prove to be a difficult start as the visitors came away with a 1-0 win, with the home side struggling to create chances in front of goal in the absence of top scorer Chuba Akpom.

After a Carabao Cup win over Huddersfield Town in the first round, a trip to Coventry City ended in a disappointing 3-0 loss as ‘Boro started the league season with two defeats for the first time in over 15 years, with news of Akpom’s departure to Ajax coming in the days afterwards.

Having scored a first point of the campaign at home to Huddersfield, a 4-2 loss away at West Brom left Middlesbrough winless in the league come the end of August although a straightforward victory at Bolton Wanderers meant there was at least progress in the League Cup to give the fans reason to cheer.

That cheer was very much needed as the league form continued to be a cause for concern, with a home loss to QPR just before the first international break of the season seeing ‘Boro drop to the bottom of the table – having suffered their worst ever start to a campaign.

Things didn’t get any better when the season resumed after a 2-1 loss to Blackburn made it five defeats in six games but after a 1-1 draw away at Sheffield Wednesday, a first win finally arrived at the eighth attempt against relegated Southampton – with a Jonny Howson penalty securing the points as his team came from behind to win 2-1 and move off the bottom.

Following further progress in the League Cup against fourth tier Bradford City, before victory away at Watford made it three wins in a row. Riley McGree scored twice early only for the home side to fight back and draw level, with Josh Colburn’s second half strike securing the points.

A 2-0 victory at home to Cardiff saw the resurgence continue and it was clear to see that Carrick’s side were hitting their stride when the first Tees-Wear derby of the season at the Stadium of Light saw ‘Boro win with ease after four second half goals in front of a crowd of more than 43,000.

Victories against Birmingham and Norwich meant Middlesbrough were suddenly right in contention for the play-off places as one of the form sides in the league, although the winning run would then come to an end as an injury-hit side slipped to a home loss to Stoke City.

October drew to a close with further progress in the League Cup at the expense of Exeter City before an all-action draw against fellow Vertu Motors-backed outfit Plymouth Argyle and a home game with league leaders Leicester City – who were consigned to defeat by a stunning strike from Sam Greenwood late on.

However, another difficult spell followed, with four defeats in the next five games seeing ‘Boro slip down to 13th in the table before the run was ended by a win at Swansea and victory at home to WBA – either side of a quarter final League Cup success away at Port Vale.

A surprise loss at Rotherham on Boxing Day was followed by victory at Huddersfield to leave ‘Boro three points off the play-off positions going into the new year.

A home loss to Coventry on New Years Day and an FA Cup exit at home to Aston Villa came before ‘Boro welcomed Chelsea to the Riverside for the first leg of the League Cup semi-final, and a stunning display saw the home side emerge victorious by a single goal thanks to a strike from Hayden Hackney in the first half.

The topsy-turvy league form continued with a win away at Millwall followed by a home draw with Rotherham, before Chelsea proved to be too strong in the second leg of the semi-final to end any hopes of a return to Wembley for the final.

The disappointment of the cup exit was followed by three league games without a win, which was ended by a victory at the King Power Stadium against Leicester – ensuring six points from six against the team that would eventually go on to secure the title.

It was followed however by losses to Plymouth and Stoke City that left ‘Boro facing an uphill battle to try and make it into the play-off spots – slipping down to 14th place in the standings and closer to the relegation zone than the top six.

Those disappointments however would kickstart another upturn in fortunes for the team as it embarked on an unbeaten run that saw ‘Boro climb back up the standings, with a 3-1 win against Norwich at the Riverside kicking off a run of nine games without defeat – including draws against promotion chasers Southampton and Ipswich Town.

Key to that run was the form of Emmanuel Latte Lath, with his goals helping to lift the team back towards the play-spots before a dramatic game at home to Leeds resulted in a 4-3 loss that all but ended the play-off charge.

The mathematical hopes were extinguished despite a 4-1 win on the road at Cardiff in the penultimate game of the season, with ‘Boro rounding out the campaign with victory over Watford to end the campaign in eighth spot – missing out on the play-offs by just four points.

Following the conclusion of the season, ‘Boro moved quicky to sign Luke Ayling on a permanent deal following a promising loan spell from Leeds United and - more importantly – also tied head coach Carrick down to a new three-year deal to remain in charge until 2027, with all eyes on making a return to the Premier League.

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