After Burnley transfer target Andy Carroll’s opener, Middlesbrough 2 Reading 1: Matt Crooks scores twice in a late comeback.

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Middlesbrough 2 Reading 1: Matt Crooks scores twice in a late comeback after Andy Carroll’s opener for Burnley.

MATT CROOKS was the hero in Middlesbrough’s late comeback win over Reading.

Chris Wilder’s team had won in extra time for the third consecutive game, extending their unbeaten streak to seven games.

With the opener on 68 minutes, Andy Carroll thought he had won it for the Royals on what could be his final appearance for them.

Burnley are considering a move for the towering frontman, 33, after his short-term deal with the Royals expired.

Reading were denied, however, as Crooks equalized late on before grabbing the winner in the 95th minute to keep Boro’s play-off hopes alive.

“I’d love a comfortable afternoon,” Wilder said, “but this is the Championship, and that doesn’t happen.”

“We were able to get back into the game and find a winner with the introduction of the subs and the quality of the bench now compared to what it was.”

The visitors frustrated Boro after being thrashed 7-0 by Fulham and had the first chance when Junior Hoilett fired wide.

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Jonny Howson’s long-ranger was almost deflected in, and the Royals were on the verge of disaster.

Andraz Sporar’s shot deflected off Luke Southwood, hit Josh Laurent, and hit the inside of the post.

Boro debutant Aaron Connolly curled a 25-yard shot wide after Hoilett had a strike saved.

After Laurent appeared to be impeded by Anfernee Dijksteel, the Brighton loanee missed two more chances before half-time. Reading then demanded a penalty.

New signing Folarin Balogun was introduced from the bench by Chris Wilder, but they were already behind.

Carroll rose above Paddy McNair and Neil Taylor to head into the far corner after a deep cross from Tom Dele-Bashiru.

With six minutes remaining, Crooks sliced wide, but Southwood was powerless to prevent him heading home from Marcus Tavernier’s cross.

Then, with seconds left on the clock, he powered another header from Jones’ cross past Southwood, igniting wild celebrations and putting Reading in serious trouble.

“It’s a technical issue in terms of his contract expiring today,” Royals boss Veljko Paunovic said of Carroll. “But that doesn’t mean he’ll leave.”

“His performances during his time with us will open doors for him, but I only got the impression from my conversation with him that he wants to stay with us.”

“For him, it’s also a football opportunity, but hopefully he’ll stay.”

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