Blues beaten by five-star Boro
Premier League Middlesbrough showed the strength of their under-23 squad as they came from behind to thump Whitby Town 5-2 at the Turnbull Ground.
The Blues welcomed back midfielder Dale Hopson and centre-half signing Ben Askins, with Dave McTiernan and Mikey Roberts also added to the starting line-up for the club’s second pre-season outing.
However, there was disappointment for the Seasiders as centre-half and assistant boss Lee Bullock limped off with a flare-up of an old knee injury, inside five minutes.
Trialist defender Paul Weldon took his place, before Roberts almost struck, after collecting a ball over the top, but fired straight at keeper Joe Fryer.
Roberts then turned provider to put Whitby ahead on 10 minutes.
The ex-Spennymoor striker tricked his way down the left wing before cutting back for Hopson to slide home, with his right foot, from close range.
At the other end, Shane Bland saved a low angled drive that lacked power from Harrison Chapman and Alex Pattison went clear but drilled across the face of goal and wide.
But the Boro pair promptly combined for their side’s leveller, just after the half hour.
Chapman caught Weldon in possession on the right-edge of the Blues box, then quickly fed Pattison who fired into the top-right corner from 10 yards.
By now, Whitby had lost Askins to injury too, as Kieran Weledji was introduced in a straight swap.
Just before the interval it looked as though Middlesbrough had turned the game on its head.
Joao Morelli beat Bland in the air, on the edge of his box and picked out Chapman, who slotted into an empty net, before an offside flag cut short away celebrations.
Boro made five changes at half-time, as Whitby replaced Callum Martin, who picked up a first-half thigh injury, with big Jamie Poole.
The second half Middlesbrough side looked impressive and hungry, they had the lead on 61 minutes.
Adam Gell was a little too physical in his tussle with Joe Wheatley, who dusted himself off and expertly curled the resulting 22-yard free-kick over a three-man wall and into the top-left corner of the net.
Town manager Chris Hardy replaced stopper Bland with youngster James Dawson, but to no avail as a brilliant one-touch move ended in a crisp first-time 18-yard finish, low between the gloveman and his right-hand post, from Hayden Coulson.
The left-winger could’ve struck again, within seconds, but he dragged wide as his shot struck teammate Marcus Tavernier on its way past Dawson’s left-hand post, this time.
Roberts sent a rising 20-yard half-volley narrowly wide, but Boro’s fledglings hadn’t long to wait for their next goal.
On 69 minutes, it was four when a driven left-wing ball was tapped home at the back post by Jordan McGhee.
Some more great build-up play then saw Callum Cook sidefoot past Dawson after a good initial block.
Only a terrific goal-line slide from Poole denied Tom McAloon point-blank and the home crowd were further pleased when one of their own, 16-year-old Whitby-based Elliott Anderson, turned home after Anthony Hume beat Fryer in an aerial battle for Dan McWilliams’ left-wing cross.
There was still time for one more Boro raid and Dawson was forced into a superb reaction tip-over to keep out Cook’s injury-time piledriver.