Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick admitted Riley McGree’s stunning winner was good enough to win any game and was the “wow” moment from their 1-0 win at St. Andrew’s.

McGree’s 17th-minute goal was his sixth of the season and first since September, giving Boro their third straight win.

The Teessiders are up to ninth and five points off the final play-off position.

“I don’t think you expect that but it was a pure strike from Riley,” said Carrick.

“He’s capable of those moments and he’s had one or two of those ‘wow’ moments with goals he’s scored like that.

“It was a hell of a strike and fitting to win any game. He’s capable of that and, like some of the boys, capable of even better.

“I thought there were moments of real quality in the game and that was the standout one.

“Hopefully he’s coming into a real vein of form when we need him.”

McGree’s celebrations were muted out of respect to the club where he spent 15 months on loan across two seasons from October 2020 to the end of 2021.

“Knowing Riley it was down to that. He’s down to earth and humble and very respectful,” added Carrick.

“I didn’t realise that but if he didn’t celebrate, I can understand that.”

Carrick was non-committal on Boro’s hopes of making the top six, with Blackburn at home on Saturday.

“Let’s see where we go – we’ve had a good week,” he said.

“We were the only game so we knew we could make a bit of a jump, so we made the most of it.

“Just because we won doesn’t mean the next game is going to naturally end in a win. We need to start again and prepare for that.”

McGree lashed an unstoppable left-foot drive into the top corner from 25 yards after Alex Pritchard’s pass was easily cut out by Luke Ayling.

Birmingham have now gone five games without a win and are just a point above the relegation zone after losing their match in hand.

Interim manager Mark Venus admitted the absence of boss Tony Mowbray for medical treatment was being felt deeply.

“He’s making good progress and we can’t get him back quickly enough and hopefully he will be back in the future,” said Venus.

“We’ve missed him immensely and enormously. He’s a leader, a motivator and a driver and I think undoubtedly when you have someone like him at the front, you miss him.

“We have not got enough leaders in the club. But we have to work with what we’ve got and we have to do better and get through this.

“It’s a lack of quality that we all have to address.”

Riley McGree returned to haunt his old loan club Birmingham with a stunning goal as Middlesbrough won 1-0 at St. Andrew’s.

Attacking midfielder McGree, 25, put Boro ahead in the 17th minute after a mistake by Alex Pritchard in a game of few clear-cut chances.

The result heaps pressure on City, who have now gone five games without a win and are only out of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone by a point after their match in hand.

City have not won since manager Tony Mowbray – a much-loved former Middlesbrough player and manager – has been away from his daily duties for medical treatment.

Both sets of fans chanted his name but Birmingham looked in need of the 60-year-old’s guidance as Boro made it three wins in a row.

Birmingham had the first chance when Pritchard attempted a 40-yard chip over goalkeeper Seny Dieng but his ambitious effort drifted wide.

Paddy McNair fired over a long-range rising effort for Middlesbrough after Emmanuel Latte Lath was denied from point-blank range by goalkeeper John Ruddy.

But a mistake by Pritchard led to Boro taking a 17th-minute lead.

The former Brentford and Sunderland midfielder’s pass was easily cut out by Luke Ayling. He found McGree, who lashed an unstoppable left-foot drive into the top corner of the net from 25 yards.

McGree, who spent 15 months on loan at Blues from October 2020 to the end of 2021, celebrated in understated fashion against his old club.

Things went from bad to worse for City two minutes later when centre-back Marc Roberts went off injured to be replaced by Cody Drameh.

Ayling tried to make it 2-0 after cutting inside and curling goalwards but his attempt was straight at Ruddy.

Pritchard sliced horribly wide on the angle as neither he nor Koji Miyoshi seemed to want to take responsibility to shoot.

If Birmingham’s struggles were not summed up by that lack of confidence, they were underlined when no one challenged Latte Lath from Lukas Engel’s throw-in and the striker fired just wide.

Matt Clarke sent a bullet header wide from a corner as the visitors continued to look the more dangerous side.

Birmingham replaced the out-of-sorts Miyoshi with Juninho Bacuna at half-time but they continued to look unconvincing.

There was a four-minute stoppage before the hour mark after referee Andy Davies went off injured, with fourth official Jeremy Simpson taking over the whistle.

The lively Latte Lath only just failed to get enough contact on an up-and-under, with the sliced effort flying over.

Stoke boss Steven Schumacher wants to make their home ground a fortress after a crucial 2-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Bae Jun-ho’s second goal in as many games before the interval set the hosts on course to a vital victory.

And Lewis Baker put the result beyond any doubt late on to hand the Potters a major boost in their battle for survival.

Stoke remain in the relegation zone but move level on points with three sides above them.

“It’s a big win and I’m really pleased for everyone,” said Schumacher.

“It was two teams that aren’t in brilliant form; the first goal was crucial and after that, we played with a bit more confidence.

“It was a tough game, but I think every one of our players deserves huge credit because everyone played right to the maximum and that’s what it’s going to take.

“We’re in a real battle and there’s so many teams in a congested bottom half of the division.

“We need to make this place a difficult place to come and today our fans were outstanding right from the very first whistle.

“It was a great atmosphere; we needed the fans today and we’re going to need them again.

“They got behind us and I really appreciate the support and the players put in the effort and the commitment that they’ll get behind.

“It was a massive win and every point that you get is going to be huge; everyone can see how tight it is. Six points separate us and 12th, which is mental.

“It’ll change loads of times from now until the end of the season. There are 11 games to go, a lot of points to play for and we’ve got to try and get as many as we can.”

Middlesbrough slipped to a fourth defeat in five games as their wastefulness was punished.

Riley McGree was denied an early opener by Daniel Iversen and Emmanuel Latte Lath had an effort blocked on the line.

“It was always going to be a tough one and a bit of a wrestle,” said boss Michael Carrick.

“I thought we got to grips with it well early in the game and we had some really good chances.

“The first goal was important today and it didn’t go our way and we didn’t really get to grips with chasing the game as we would’ve liked.

“It wasn’t for a lack of effort or attitude; we just didn’t have the ball in the right part of the pitch for long enough.

“Confidence when you’re not winning is tested; it’s the human side to sport and you can’t expect the boys to be flying because we haven’t had good results.

“We’ve got to be wary of the next game, picking up the next win as soon as we can and performing well.

“That’s purely the main focus for me now; we’ve got a cluster of games coming up over the next 10 days or so.

“We need to look forward to and attack them as they’re opportunities for us to put things right.

“We want the next result to come quickly for us but in terms of the league table, it doesn’t change the next game.

“Wherever you’re at in the league, you’re always trying to win the next game.”

Substitutes Riley McGree and Morgan Rogers scored stoppage-time goals to steer Middlesbrough into round three of the Carabao Cup with a 3-1 comeback win at League One Bolton.

Australian ace McGree had only been on the pitch five minutes before rounding off sustained Boro pressure with a superb low left-foot finish.

Rogers, a summer signing from Manchester City, completed a deserved win for Michael Carrick’s Championship side with his first goal for the club.

The game started promisingly for Bolton in this repeat of the 2004 League Cup final.

Fresh from signing a new contract extension, Northern Ireland international Dion Charles gave Wanderers a 23rd-minute lead after Tom Glover could only parry Josh Sheehan’s shot.

The home lead only lasted 10 minutes as Matt Crooks lofted Paddy McNair’s through ball past Joel Coleman for his first goal since last April.

Coleman, injured at the end of the first half, didn’t reappear for the second which produced more bookings (5) than chances until the closing stages.

Sub goalie Nathan Baxter saved from Samuel Silvera and then brilliantly tipped McNair’s piledriver onto the bar.

But Boro’s pressure finally told with the late double from McGree and Rogers, giving the visitors only a second win of the campaign.

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