Bad start for Boro
Tue 1st Jan 3pm
An out-of-sorts Middlesbrough slipped one place to fourth in the table with a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Derby County at Pride Park.
The visitors fell behind when Michael Jacobs opened the scoring on nineteen minutes and Jeff Hendrick added another before the break. Irish-born striker Conor Sammon later collected a third goal before Lukas Jutkiewicz grabbed a last-minute consolation.
Boro were earlier forced to include a couple of young defenders on the bench for the first time in Paul Weldon and Christian Burgess. Full-back Justin Hoyte and striker Marvin Emnes both missed out with injuries.
Following a slow start to proceedings it was the hosts forging ahead towards the midpoint of the opening half when Ben Davies' free-kick was converted by the unmarked Jacobs from around eight-yards.
Defender Andy Halliday soon required attention following a knock to the face before fellow full-back Stuart Parnaby narrowly cleared the crossbar for the visitors. And Boro were to suffer another injury blow when former England defender Jonathan Woodgate limped off on 37 minutes and was replaced by Kevin Thomson.
Davies next struck over for their opponents until Hendrick volleyed an impressive second goal with only three minutes of the opening half remaining. It could have immediately got worse as Davies then crashed a 30-yard free-kick against the crossbar.
Another change at the break for the visitors with Luke Williams coming on for Scott McDonald, although it was soon Sammon having a follow-up header cleared off the line by emergency centre-back Nicky Bailey after goalkeeper Jason Steele had already blocked his opening attempt.
Derby still extended their lead on 65 minutes when Steele denied a low-struck drive from Jacobs but Sammon seized upon the rebound to claim his sixth goal of the season.
Boro duly introduced Ishmael Miller from the bench and the burly on loan striker at least forced a diving save from Adam Legzdins before crossing late on for Jutkiewicz to find a solitary reply from six-yards during added time.
Derby County: Legzdins, Brayford, Keogh, O'Brien, Freeman, Coutts, Hendrick, Davies, Hughes, Jacobs (Tyson 77), Sammon (Hoganson 87)
subs (unused): Fielding, O'Connor, Gjokaj, Robinson, Doyle
Goals: Jacobs (19), Hendrick (42), Sammon (65)
Middlesbrough: Steele. Parnaby, R. Williams, Woodgate (Thomson 37), Halliday, Leadbitter (Miller 66), Bailey, Smallwood, Reach, Jutkiewicz, McDonald (L. Williams 46)
subs (unused): Leutwiler, Burgess, Weldon, Zemmama
Goals: Jutkiewicz (90)