Aden Flint has heaped praise on Jordan Hugill and Marcus Tavernier after the duo helped Boro to victory over Brentford on Saturday.
Hugill scored Boro’s first goal, tapping home from close range after Jonny Howson’s positive run into the penalty area. He was on target in the previous game too, bagging a brace in the win over Wigan.
It was a particularly important goal for the Middlesbrough-born frontman, as prior to that, he had gone twelve games without scoring in the Championship.
The subsequent international break could easily have knocked the wind out of his sails, but the former Dickens Inn barman was on hand to continue his good form going into what is a pivotal period in an ever-changing division.
“Jordan is a great story,” Flint told the Northern Echo. “He’s a guy who used to be a barman in the area before going off to be a professional elsewhere.
“He’s come back to his home patch, and he’s scoring goals in front of fans that he maybe used to serve at the bar. He loved that goal in front of the away end against Brentford.
“He did ever so well at Preston and fully earned his big-money move to West Ham. For whatever reason it didn’t quite work out, injury played a part. But now we’re benefiting from his displays.
“He puts in a hell of a shift every time he plays. He may have been under a bit of pressure before the recent Wigan game, but he got a couple there, got the monkey off his back and maybe he will continue in a vein of scoring and get a few more.
“He’s there to score goals, and the goals he’s got in the last two games have been important and helped get us points. We have great strikers in the squad, and there is competition.”
Marcus Tavernier started the game, much to the surprise of many, who expected the youngster’s involvement to be from off the bench, if at all. He repaid Tony Pulis’s trust by scoring what proved to be the match-winning goal.
“Marcus has done so well,” said Flint. “He hadn’t started a league game for a year or something, but he’s come in and taken his chance. We said to him before the game, ‘You have been given this opportunity – now take it’, and he did it in style with the winning goal.
“He’s very down to earth and has his head screwed on for a young lad, and he’s played for England Under-20s already. Now, he’ll be looking to get a few more games.
“I think Marcus and some of the other kids keep me young – I must be one of the oldest in the group but I don’t feel it!”
Boro know more than any other team of the importance clean sheets have in a promotion race. It provides a solid foundation on which to mount a run and, perhaps more crucially, avoid defeats.
The last time the promotion party wagon was rolling on Teesside, it came as a result of a campaign in which only 31 goals were conceded.
In fact, it was a record breaking season. Nine consecutive league clean sheets was Boro’s best return for 30 years. In the end, the ever-solid rearguard kept 22 clean sheets that season.
“As a defence, we love the clean sheets,” said Flint. “I do believe that goals win games, clean sheets win leagues – that is what the gaffer is trying to drum into us.
“I think we have about 11 clean sheets already this season, and it is looking good on that front. That’s why we were so disappointed with the goal we conceded (at Brentford). We were annoyed how we conceded, we all switched off as a team for the short corner.”