TONY Mowbray watched Middlesbrough batter Bristol City 4-0 and challenged his revived side to perform consistently in the upcoming string of basement battles.
The Teessiders eased their relegation worries with a ruthless second half demolition of Bristol that bought them some breathing space.
But Boro’s crucial coming trio of tussles pit them against the current bottom three and Mowbray knows how crucial a run of wins will be.
“The win against Bristol was great for the confidence of the team and it was well deserved,” said Mowbray.
“But we’re not getting carried away. We know we’ve still got a very big month still to come with three games against teams around us.
“The team and the supporters will be celebrating right now but my mind goes straight to next week when we have got Preston at home. Then after that it is Scunthorpe and Crystal Palace.
“With Preston another three points is there for us in the offing, but only if we can hit the heights again.
“They’ve got a new manager and will maybe be looking to change things around so potentially it will be tricky but its an opportunity for us, a fantastic chance to increase the gap over the teams below us and relieve a bit of pressure and start to climb up the table.”
Boro rediscovered their goal touch with Leroy Lita on fire against his former club as his doggedness forced an own goal off Kalifa Cisse. Lita added the second and, after Barry Robson’s strike for the third, smashed in a late penalty.
Mowbray added: “At half-time we talked about how so often in recent months we’ve so often been the better team and a goal up at the break but suffered the disappointment of dropping points and that we had to show a determination to not let that happen. “We did that and I’m delighted about how we set about the task. We forced the pace of the game and created chances, as we have done before – but the difference was putting the ball in the net.
“There wasn’t a great deal of difference in performance between the win over Bristol and the defeat at Burton or the games we lost at Doncaster and Coventry but this time we got the second goal and visibly relaxed and that had a dramatic effect.
“We played with composure and were more clinical in front of goal and if we can do that again in the important games that are coming in the next few weeks then I am confident we can start to climb the table.”
Boro’s first came two minutes before half-time when Andrew Taylor played a superb diagonal ball to the left-hand corner flag. Lita picked it up, burst his way past two defenders before seeing his cut-back turned into his own net by Bristol defender Cisse.
Lita made his presence felt again just before the hour when Tony McMahon‘s cross was flicked on by Kris Boyd to Lita at the far post where he headed in and was promptly booked for over-celebrating.
Bristol launched a furious assault and Pitman, Adomah and Elliott all wasted chances before Boro resumed control and grabbed a third on 77 minutes as Barry Robson weaved past three defenders to the edge of the box then fired over the despairing dive of David James.
Lita completed the scoring late on when Cameron Park was felled inside the box by James – who was sent off – leaving the Boro striker to step up and hammer in Boro’s fourth from the spot.
BRISTOL CITY: James, Skuse, Caulker, Cisse (Fontaine 65), Nyatanga, Adomah, Johnson, Elliott, Campbell-Ryce (Clarkson 79), Pitman, Stead (Sproule 65). Subs (not used): Gerken, Stewart, Carey, Haynes.
Sent off: James (89).
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele, Hoyte (McMahon 38), Wheater, Bates, Bennett, Robson, Bailey, O’Neil (Park 83), Taylor, Lita, Boyd (Emnes 62). Subs (not used): Coyne, Kink, Arca, Hines.
Goals: Cisse 43 og, Lita 58, Robson 77, Lita 90 pen.
Attendance: 13,699 Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).