Few savour an away day quite like Tony Pulis, but if there was a familiar formula to Middlesbrough’s latest profitable road trip, victory still had an unlikely architect.
Only leaders Norwich have claimed more points on their travels while all of Middlesbrough’s league wins in 2019 have come away from the Riverside Stadium and featured a Britt Assombalonga goal.
Yet if he was a regular scorer in a typical result, Middlesbrough’s forgotten man was the catalyst. Ashley Fletcher is a £6 million signing who had only made four previous league starts and just one for Pulis.
If he only owed his place to defensive absentees, with Pulis forced to pick a more attacking team because centre-backs Aden Flint and Daniel Ayala were injured and suspended respectively, the forward justified his selection with his speed, skill and directness.
“He was smashing,” said Pulis, after Fletcher’s pace decided the game. He burst beyond the Blackburn defence to unleash a shot that was deflected off Charlie Mulgrew for Assombalonga to head in from two yards. Then, when Fletcher was closing in on goal, he was brought down by Derrick Williams. The left-back was the last man and was duly dismissed.