Boro sharpen their knives in cutthroat division

At 5pm on Saturday Boro found themselves in 4th place, level on points with 5th and 6th place and only a point ahead of 7th. All of the top 7 bar Sheffield United had won their games and the pressure was on for Boro to keep pace. By 7:30pm we had breathing space again in 2nd.

In recent weeks, the complaints have been that Boro are too blunt. While rivals seemingly had incisive passers and sharp shooters, Boro were armed with plastic knives. But the last two games have put those concerns to rest for now.

A home win against Wigan may be routine, but an away win at Brentford certainly isn’t. Despite their lowly position, they are still a decent team and Griffin Park is a tough place to go.

On Saturday, Boro pulled off the perfect away performance. Brentford had 68% of the possession and 17 shots compared to Boro’s 11, but it was the away side who made it count.

Boro created the two best chances of the match and put them away accordingly. Besic’s beautifully flighted pass over the top fell to Jonny Howson – he couldn’t finish it off, but Hugill made sure. Five minutes later, Dael Fry’s inch-perfect cross found the impressive Marcus Tavernier’s head to make it 2-0. Pretty much game over.

Brentford, for all their possession and shots, only really created one or two clear cut chances. They were mostly restricted to speculative long range shots.

One of those did find it’s way through, putting Boro under unnecessary pressure in the final 15 minutes, but despite some frantic defending it never really looked like Brentford would equalise. Boro held on, and reclaimed their spot in the top 2.

It was vindication for Pulis, who has faced criticism for his selections and tactics from some fans. On Saturday he proved that if the players carry out the game plan, and make their chances count, then the goals and results will come.

He made a bold call bringing in Tavernier, and it paid off as he was one of the top performers. He was caught out a few times to allow Brentford to attack in numbers down the flanks, but his positive impact at the other end more than made up for it.

Jordan Hugill, another target for disgruntled fans in recent weeks, was full of running, made life difficult for defenders and deserved his goal. Meanwhile Darren Randolph continued his unsung hero act with a few more brilliant saves.

In-form Preston and a buoyant Villa will be much tougher tests this week, but with the best defence in the league and a rejuvenated attack Boro should fear nobody.

In a crowded promotion race, Boro are finally showing they have the tools to cut through to the front.

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