Are Boro finally, after 37 games, finding some consistency? The win against Barnsley was the third in four games, during which the team have also scored an impressive 10 goals.
It appears as if Boro are on the up – back in the top 6, scoring goals for fun, Bamford and Traore on fire, the defence staying strong.
They have leapfrogged Bristol City and have their sights set on a fading Derby side. Yet, one nagging doubt remains: can this Boro side beat the teams around them?
Poor Record So Far
A reminder if you need it: Boro have 5 points from a possible 30 against the rest of the top 8. Most of those results were under Monk, but Pulis has had 1-0 defeats to Villa, Fulham and Cardiff.
With Boro now gaining momentum, remaining matches against the top 8 will be a big test of how far they have come.
There are only four matches left: Wolves and Bristol City at home, Derby and Sheffield Utd away.
Given the gentle run-in, these matches might not have that much bearing on whether Boro make the play-offs.
But what victories in these matches will do is give the team and the fans confidence. That confidence and momentum will be crucial going into the play-offs and they will need to find a way to beat the teams above them eventually if this season is to end in an unlikely promotion.
Reasons for Optimism
There are encouraging signs too. The Derby debacle aside, all the defeats against direct rivals have been by a single goal. Boro did not really show up in many of those matches, yet could still have feasibly salvaged results.
And in the last top-6 meeting, at home to Fulham, Boro were dominant for spells and should have scored long before conceding in injury time.
Boro have also not gone into any of those matches in the kind of form they are in now. That should make a big difference against teams who have all stuttered to some extent recently.
The defence look sturdier, if still prone to some silly errors, the midfield looks balanced and the Traore-Bamford partnership should give most teams problems.
I’ve been quietly impressed with Pulis’ Boro recently, but the real test is yet to come. If he can find a way to get the edge in these tight games, we might be celebrating at Wembley in May.
Otherwise, he will be asking serious questions about whether the squad he inherited has the mental strength required for another promotion push.