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Ledesma winner sends Boro into top half
Full-time: Middlesbrough 1 Charlton 0
MIDDLESBROUGH climbed into the top half of the Championship table as Emmanuel Ledesma's first-half strike settled a scrappy encounter against Charlton.
Ledesma fired home from 25 yards as Boro extended their unbeaten league run to six games and made it three wins from their last three Championship outings at the Riverside.
They were the better side for the majority of the afternoon, but suffered an occasional scare before the late dismissal of Rhoys Wiggins reduced Charlton to ten men. Even then, they were still indebted to a sensational stoppage-time save from Shay Given as they claimed all three points.
Aitor Karanka made two changes to the side that had won at Blackpool, with Mustapha Carayol and Curtis Main replacing Albert Adomah and Lukas Jutkiewicz. However, there was no place for Jonathan Woodgate and Kei Kamara, who were both on the bench, or Kenneth Omeruo and Nathaniel Chalobah, who did not even make the squad.
Boro almost made a nightmare start, but after Dean Whitehead sloppily conceded possession in the second minute, Yann Kermorgant could only slice his shot well wide of the target.
That proved to be just about as good as it got for the visitors as Boro went on to control the majority of the first half with a minimum of fuss.
Main fashioned their first opportunity, fortuitously retaining possession as an attempted pass failed to come off and side-footing narrowly wide of the target from the edge of the area.
Marvin Emnes also went close early on, drilling into the side netting after Rhys Williams had played him in after striding out of defence.
It seemed only a matter of time before Boro's dominance would pay dividends, and the opening goal duly arrived in the 16th minute.
Ledesma picked up a loose ball close to the right touchline, and after cutting infield, the winger unleashed a dipping 25-yard effort that bounced off the turf to evade goalkeeper Yohann Thuram-Ulien. The ball bounced at an inopportune point for the debutant keeper, but there is no way he should have been beaten from so far out.
Given was a lot more certain at the other end when he claimed Jordan Cousins' long-range effort, but Thuram-Ulien's weaknesses were almost exposed again as Boro almost doubled their lead on the half-hour mark.
The Charlton goalkeeper kept out Mustapha Carayol's low 25-yard strike, but only thanks to unconvincing stop with his legs that seemed to owe as much to luck as judgement.
The visitors barely featured as an attacking force in the first half, but they wasted a decent opportunity to equalise within seven minutes of the restart.
Boro's defenders failed to clear a routine free-kick into the box, and centre-half Richard Wood dragged a shot wide of the target from 14 yards.
Karanka replaced Emnes with Lukas Jutkiewicz in an attempt to spark his side back into life, but it was Carayol who initially came closest to a second goal shortly after the hour mark.
The winger dribbled across the face of the penalty area before curling in a shot that Thuram-Ulien plucked from the air as it looked to be heading towards the top corner.
Charlton had the ball in the net with 20 minutes left, but substitute Simon Church's effort was rightly disallowed as he also bundled over Given in order to put it there.
However, the incident underlined the fragility of Boro's lead, and the home side made extremely hard work of seeing the game out.
With their passing going awry in the latter stages of the second half, they were indebted to Williams and Daniel Ayala, both of whom defended resolutely throughout.
Their task should have got easier with six minutes left as Wiggins received a straight red card for an over-the-top challenge on Whitehead.
However, the Teessiders still needed Given to produce an incredible save in stoppage time to secure all three points. Dale Stephens fired in a fierce drive from the edge of the area, but Given flung himself to the floor to keep it out.
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Given; Varga, R Williams, Ayala, Friend; Leadbitter, Whitehead; Ledesma, Emnes (Jutkiewicz 57), Carayol (Kamara 88); Main.
Subs (not used): Konstantopoulos (gk), Gibson, Woodgate, Smallwood, Butterfield.
Charlton (4-5-1): Thuram-Ulien; Wilson, Morrison, Wood, Wiggins; Cook (Church 67), Cousins (Ajdarevic 76), Stephens, Jackson (Green 67), Harriott; Kermorgant.
Subs (not used): Phillips (gk), Hughes, Evina, Dervite.
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