Aitor Karanka has challenged his Middlesbrough players to prove they have turned the corner after ending their seven-game goal drought at the weekend.
On-loan Sunderland striker Danny Graham’s double gave Boro a 2-0 victory over Ipswich Town at the Riverside, with Karanka’s side finding the net – and winning – for the first time since mid-January.
It has been a long wait on both counts for the Teessiders, but Karanka says they must now build on that result tonight as they prepare to entertain play-off contenders Nottingham Forest.
“We need to build on that win now against Forest,” he said. “There is little point in winning on Saturday and not following it up.
“If we think we are better than we have been then we have to follow that win on Saturday up with another win.
“We need to think we are good team, play like a very good team and then we will win games.”
While Forest go into tonight’s game in fifth place in the Championship, they have picked up just one point from their last four league games and lost at next-to-bottom Barnsley at the weekend.
However, Karanka refuses to be lulled into a false sense of security. He said: “Forest are a very good team.
“They are not having a good moment after losing the last three games.
“In the last five games (four in the league, and one in the FA Cup) they have four defeats and one draw.
“They need points to get in the play-offs and they will know that tonight.
“It would be dangerous to think we can beat them just because they lost to Barnsley.
“We need to play strongly once more and forget who we are playing against, just concentrate on ourselves.” Boro’s weekend win saw them move up one place to 13th and, although they have a nine point gap to bridge between themselves and the top six, they still have an outside chance of challenging for the play-offs.
But Karanka is quick to temper those hopes, insisting: “We are not thinking about the play-offs.
“If we beat Nottingham Forest then we have another important game next Saturday at Bournemouth.
“They are tough games until the end.”
Despite Boro’s struggles in front of goal and pressure to change his system, Spaniard Karanka has stuck to his guns and believes his faith has been rewarded – at both ends of the pitch.
He said: “I am pleased with how we are performing as a team defensively. We have worked hard on all of the team and we must be the only team in the world who has had five goalkeepers this season and five or six different central defenders!
“All of those are playing very well too. It is not just because they are playing, it because the whole team is working hard.
“They have worked very hard to defend since I took over. My staff has had ideas. When we arrived here, we were told to change the marking on corners because we conceded a lot of goals on corners.
“We put over our ideas and that solutions have arrived.
“We have been told to play with two strikers too, but we believed in our idea and the goals arrived.
“That is very good for my staff and for the players.
“I have always said that my players train very well every day. When they train like that then the goals will arrive.”