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Promotion remains Teessiders’ target
HE has proved to be Middlesbrough’s match-winner on three occasions since returning to first team duties, but Scott McDonald insists his latest winner should not distract Tony Mowbray’s squad from their main objective.
McDonald scored his fourth goal in five games to send Middlesbrough through to the Capital One Cup quarter-finals at Sunderland’s expense in a well deserved win at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday.
The victory over their Wearside rivals took Boro’s unbeaten run to six games in all competitions and they are now unbeaten in five away from home.
Their away tie against Swansea City will be Boro’s first appearance in the League Cup quarter-finals since 2005, but despite cup fever brewing on Teesside, McDonald admits he is refusing to get carried away and insists focus must remain on their league campaign.
“From a fans point of view it’s great, but I think I’ll get a bit more excited if we get past the next round,” McDonald said.
“I’m just focusing on getting the club promoted. That’s what I came here to do and I really want that to happen.
When I came here there was big expectations and hopefully we can try and make it happen. “It’s nice to be on this run, but you can’t take anything for granted, because teams will want to beat us and we’ll have to be prepared for that.
“It’s great to be in the last eight. It’s great for the club and it just means an extra games for us, but obviously our main objective is to push for promotion.”
While he prefers to keep his feet firmly on the ground regarding their cup chances, McDonald admits Tuesday’s win was for the 2,800 travelling fans that packed the upper tier of the north stand.
The side’s relationship with its supporters has been tested this season with attendances at the Riverside remaining worryingly low.
However, after their highest home gate of the season saw last Saturday’s win over Bolton, it seems supporters are beginning to believe again.
He said: “A bit of cup fever is great. The fans haven’t had much to cheer about in the last couple of years so it’s fantastic for them and to be excited for the next round.
“I believe there’s a bond between the players and the fans now and that has come from winning games. It gives us belief in the changing rooms and they start believing themselves.
“Hopefully it will bring a few more through the gates as well. We know the town is struggling economically and they do their very best to support us. The fans that come are fantastic but if we can do well on the pitch hopefully we can bring as many as we can through the gates.”
McDonald’s return to the fold has been like having a new signing for Mowbray, with the striker looking more hungry than ever to help the team succeed.
Despite missing the first two months of the season, McDonald is now level pegging with Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz with four goals.
Not many would have predicted that scenario little over a month ago, even McDonald himself, but the Australian striker now believes he can challenge the club’s other strikers in the top scorer competition.
“I said when I first came back that I would take one game at a time. I’m just fully enjoying it, working hard and I’m getting the rewards,” the striker said.
“I hope it’s going to be a great season personally and also for the team.
“I fully believe that (I can finish top scorer this season) - I believe that every year I’ve played. I want to score goals and that’s what I’m here to do.
“In the past I’ve probably got a bit grumpy when I haven’t. I’m working on that all the time to try and cut that out because it can effect my game.
“I just want to work hard, I’ve been given the opportunity and I’ve taken it with two hands and I’m really enjoying it.”
Two of Boro’s forthcoming Championship away games have been rearranged for live coverage by Sky.
The visit to Birmingham City, original scheduled for Saturday, December 1, will now be played on Friday, November 30 (ko 7.45pm).
The visit to Leicester City, originally scheduled for Saturday, January 19, will now be played on Friday, January 18 (ko 7.45pm).