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2017/18 English League Championship, Regular Season
  • Patrick Bamford (31', 36', 68')

Bamford hat trick sees Middlesbrough past Leeds into playoff spots

Patrick Bamford celebrates after scoring one of his three goals in Middlesbrough's win against Leeds. Getty Images

Middlesbrough climbed into the Championship playoff positions as Patrick Bamford's first career hat trick secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Leeds.

The temperature might have been well below freezing, but Bamford was in red-hot form as he made it six goals in his last three games with a well-taken treble.

His first two goals arrived before the interval, effectively ending Leeds' meek resistance, and he completed his hat trick midway through the second half as he rolled home a loose ball from inside the area.

The victory lifted Middlesbrough ahead of Sheffield United on goal difference, and ensured they headed into the weekend in a top-six berth for the first time since mid-November.

The Riverside ground-staff had worked tirelessly in the 24 hours prior to kickoff, clearing snow from the pitch and surrounding areas to make sure the game could take place.

Their efforts did not prove in vain, with Boro dominating from the outset as they claimed a deserved two-goal advantage before the break.

They threatened as early as the fifth minute, with Stewart Downing only narrowly failing to reach Ryan Shotton's whipped cross from the right, and forced Leeds goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald into his first save of the night shortly after, with Bamford driving in a low shot which was parried at the front post.

Ben Gibson headed Downing's corner narrowly wide of the target midway through the first half, before Boro's dominance was rewarded shortly after the half-hour mark.

Downing switched the ball onto his preferred left foot to cross from the right, and Bamford stole ahead of Pontus Jansson to sweep a crisp first-time volley into the bottom-right corner.

That was Bamford's third goal in the space of two games after his weekend brace in the Wear-Tees derby with Sunderland, and a fourth arrived just five minutes later as his purple patch continued.

Adama Traore was only able to start the game after his red card at the Stadium of Light was rescinded on appeal, and the winger's 50-yard burst from deep inside his own half to set up Bamford underlined just why Boro boss Tony Pulis was so keen to ensure his availability.

Traore ghosted past three Leeds defenders before releasing Bamford in the left-hand side of the area, and the former Chelsea trainee produced an excellent finish, drilling a fierce low strike under Wiedwald, who should perhaps have done better.

Wiedwald was not the only visitor who was under-performing, with Leeds' first-half opportunities restricted to a poor effort from Sameul Saiz that sailed harmlessly over the crossbar, and a header from Jansson that flashed wide from a corner.

Jansson should have provided Leeds with a route back into the game eight minutes into the second half, but, despite finding himself unmarked as he met a corner eight yards out, he could only direct a header high over the crossbar.

It was a costly miss that was punished in emphatic fashion as Bamford completed his hat-trick midway through the second half. He looked marginally offside as Jansson's block from a Traore shot fell into his path, but he dispatched a clinical side-footed finish into the bottom-left corner.

English League Championship Standings

POS Team GP GD PTS
1 Norwich City 17 +8 33
2 Middlesbrough 17 +11 31
3 Leeds United 17 +12 30
4 Sheffield United 17 +8 30
5 West Bromwich Albion 17 +12 28
6 Derby County 17 +5 28
7 Nottingham Forest 17 +7 27
8 Swansea City 17 +6 26
9 Blackburn Rovers 17 -1 26
10 Queens Park Rangers 17 -4 26
11 Aston Villa 17 +4 24
12 Birmingham City 17 +3 24
13 Bristol City 17 +1 22
14 Stoke City 17 -1 22
15 Brentford 17 +4 21
16 Wigan Athletic 17 -7 20
17 Sheffield Wednesday 17 -9 20
18 Preston North End 17 -4 18
19 Rotherham United 17 -9 18
20 Reading 17 -5 16
21 Millwall 17 -7 16
22 Hull City 17 -8 16
23 Bolton Wanderers 17 -12 16
24 Ipswich Town 17 -14 11