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'We showed our character' says Mowbray
TONY MOWBRAY has paid tribute to his Middlesbrough squad for showing the resilience to bounce back from a midweek crushing and claim a first away win of the season at Ewood Park last night.
Just days after losing 4-1 at Blackpool with the same group of players, the exception being two-goal hero Lukas Jutkiewicz's return, Boro showed their character to emerge from early leaders Blackburn Rovers with all three points.
Jutkiewicz struck the opener in the sixth minute before adding a second with a lovely header on the hour to give Boro the breathing space to claim a victory.
And while Grant Hanley glanced a header to give Rovers hope in the final minute, Middlesbrough held on and made it two wins from three inside six hectic days in the Football League.
“They have their shirts soaked in sweat and they will know what they have been through,” said Mowbray, whose side climbed in to the top six. “I am proud of them all, there were some immense performances out there.
“It is three points tonight and six points for the week. We would have liked nine but six in a week is good and we would have taken that at the start of the week.”
Mowbray was keen to give the same group of players a chance to make amends for Tuesday's surrender at Blackpool, where Ian Holloway's team ran them ragged to win 4-1.
Striker Ishmael Miller had to miss out with a groin problem so that paved the way for Jutkiewicz to start his first game of the season, having been forced to undergo knee surgery during the summer.
And Mowbray was delighted with the striker's contribution. He said: “I have sensed during the week that he was disappointed not to play two weeks ago when he felt he was ready.
“Every day in training we have had to calm him down because he has been bursting to show us he can start. Juke got his opportunity and he was a real handful and he gives us a platform to go off. If we have players like him and (Mustapha) Carayol, Marvin Emnes , they all can cause a real problem to other teams.”
Middlesbrough did cause Blackburn plenty of problems last night, but the performance of the team as a defensive unit was what pleased the manager the most.
Jonathan Woodgate, who had to go off feeling his hamstring, was important at the heart of the defence alongside Andre Bikey, while the midfield in front of them was also just as influential.
“I would have to say we did a lot of talking about what Blackpool caused us on Tuesday, that's my job to sort out problems of the team,” said Mowbray.
“Woodgate played as well as he has for us and his partnership with Bikey was really strong. Then you look to the midfield and Josh McEachran showed his quality, while Kevin Thomson and Grant Leadbitter got through an enormous amount of work for us.
“My job is to make sure we play like that every single week. We want to be in and around the Blackpools of this world and with performances like this we could be.
“Blackburn are top of the table despite the noises from the stands (protesting against Rovers manager Steve Kean) and we had to be ready. Blackburn were a strong unit and mentally tough as a squad so we had to be ready.”
Woodgate will be rested for Tuesday night's Capital One Cup tie at Preston, while Mowbray will also monitor the fitness of Leadbitter, who also had to be replaced late on with hamstring trouble.
He said: “Grant has covered a marathon this week he was probably feeling a bit it. Woody is a slight tear probably and he will know all about that, it's his own body. I'm not too concerned.”
With a free weekend from match action, Mowbray and his staff will be heading out on scouting missions over the next few days.
“All the staff are going to games,” said Mowbray. “Some are looking at individual players for the next transfer window and I will be sitting on the bus watching Preston's game against Hartlepool . We have to get ready mentally. This one is finished and the next game has already started.”