Aitor Karanka says that Middlesbrough must not let their season fizzle out despite conceding their play-off hopes are over.
Having gatecrashed Burnley’s promotion party recently, they now head to Reading hoping to throw a spanner in the works of the Royals’ play-off hopes.
Boro have nothing to play for after their late surge for the top six came to nothing following defeat against Millwall, but Karanka insists that he wants his team to continue working hard.
Karanka is set to ring the changes for the long trip to Berkshire, and will welcome Ben Gibson and Dani Ayala back to his defence after their uncharacteristically poor defensive display against Millwall.
It is expected that Jozsef Varga and George Friend will return to the team.
The Spaniard wants to see his first XI finish on a high as they look to build for next season. He said: “We must respect the competition and that is why I will demand that my players give 100% in our last three fixtures.
“Reading are trying to finish in the play-off places while Barnsley and Yeovil are fighting against relegation so we must attempt to win those games to respect the Championship and the rest of the teams in this league.
“I was disappointed on Saturday because we did not play at the level we did in the last four matches.
“Millwall needed to win the game, they needed the points and their mentality was stronger. Only one team was fighting for the points and for this reason I was disappointed. Inconsistency is the biggest problem we have and that we must address.
“We need to be much stronger if we want to build something for the future. That has to start against Reading and continue in the remaining games.”
Thoughts will inevitably now turn to a big summer for Karanka and Boro, who will be looking to make his mark on the club in the summer. There will inevitably be change but the Boro boss insists that his team must concentrate on the next game first and foremost.
“Against Millwall, we learned that we need to be stronger in the future,” he added.
“If we want to do something good in the future – next season – we need to be stronger and we need to think about the next game, not the play-offs.
“That has been my mentality since I came here because it is difficult to think what is going to happen in one or two months’ time.
“It’s better to only think about the next game. When we were only thinking about the next games we played well and we won.”
Karanka also insists tonight will not be a “friendly game” for his team as he calls for them to bury their Millwall disappointment at the Madjeski Stadium.
The Boro boss said: “If someone is thinking we are going to Reading to play a friendly game they are wrong.
“The best way to forget Saturday’s game is to win at Reading. To make that happen I am going to work hard every day.”