Portsmouth 1-3 Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough climbed into the play-off places with a comfortable victory over financially stricken Portsmouth.

Barry Robson set the visitors on their way with a penalty, and Matthew Bates doubled the lead with a scrappy strike.

Greg Halford pulled a goal back for the home side with a spot-kick after Lukas Jutkiewicz handled in the box.

Marvin Emnes sealed the win with a late goal, but there was still time for Boro's Rhys Williams to be sent off for a second bookable offence.

It caps a miserable week for Pompey who had to loan captain Liam Lawrence to Cardiff in order to reduce the wage bill.

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Boro coped well with occasion - Mowbray

Portsmouth came close to opening the scoring in the first half, but Scott Allen's low drive went inches wide of Jason Steele's post.

At the other end, Stephen Henderson was doing his best to keep Middlesbrough at bay, tipping wide Neil Bailey's volley.

But the deadlock was broken in the second half when Ricardo Rocha was penalised for an infringement in the box and Robson scored the penalty.

Bates scored a second for Tony Mowbray's men, bundling home the influential Robson's free-kick, before Portsmouth won a penalty of their own when Jutkiewicz handled and Halford stepped up confidently to score.

Emnes came off the bench to fire in Boro's third after debutant Adam Hammill's shot was parried by the goalkeeper, and defender Williams was dismissed late on for a second yellow card.

Middlesbrough move up to fifth, with Portsmouth deep in relegation trouble, five points off safety in 23rd place.

Portsmouth manager Michael Appleton said:

"From our point of view, you have to keep the belief, no matter how hard you get knocked. If you get knocked down you've just got to keep picking yourself up again.

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Boro defeat was harsh - Appleton

"Today there were a few contentious decisions out there which cost us. That's going to happen in the next 13 games though, there are going to be decisions that go for us and against us.

"I'm convinced that at some point that it will turn. I can go into the next seven games in March thinking that there is enough belief and enough ability to pick up some points."

Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray said:

"I think any win is a pleasing win in this league. Every game is tough and in the end it was more of an attritional game. There wasn't much football played for an hour or so.

"The intensity of the day was always going to make it difficult for us, they have an amazing set of supporters and the atmosphere they generate is first class.

"On the pitch you look at the quality they possess also, a lot of Premier League experience, and I'm delighted with taking three points.

"I think for the bigger picture you have to hope they can fulfil their fixtures. I managed West Brom against Portsmouth four years ago in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

"It seems incredible in such a short period of time they can find themselves in the plight that they are in - we wish them well."

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