TONY Mowbray has hailed his high-flying Tees travellers after unbeaten Middlesbrough brushed aside Burnley to create an all-time club record.
The gritty 2-0 win at Turf Moor, thanks to strikes from Nicky Bailey and Joe Bennett, was a record fifth successive league away victory – the best run since the club joined the professional ranks in 1899.
Going back to last season, Boro have won at Hull, Cardiff, Leeds, Barnsley and now Burnley – and four of those finished above Mowbray’s outfit in the Championship table last term.
If you throw in Carling Cup games – Boro won at Walsall and Peterborough – it is an eyebrow-raising seven successive wins on the road for the Mowbray machine.
“It was important to keep the run going, ” said the Boro boss. “Sometimes an international break can change the momentum a bit.
“But we’ve been doing well and winning on the road this season and we managed to go to a difficult ground and keep it up.”
Boro had to dig deep at times to hold off a Burnley assault in a feisty game that often threatened to bubble over and a year ago the team may have cracked.
But the boss insisted that his resurgent side played with a steel and swagger born of the confidence that comes with good results.
“We’ve based our season so far on good performances and good football, ” he explained.
“At times, we’re happy to let the opposition have the ball and try and wait for the change in possession. I thought we were disciplined and we got our rewards for hard work and organisation.
“It has been a great start to the season for us and a lot of that comes down to belief.
“Football is all about players believing in what you ask them to do. If they don’t believe, then it is very hard for them to go out and win.
“If they do, then you get more out of them, an extra yard, a bit more composure and determination and that little extra edge that wins matches.
“At the moment the results are good and I’m pretty sure that is down to confidence.
“Good players, hard work and organisation are the keys to winning football matches and it helps when every department does their job, but if they have that belief then it makes it far more likely that you will get something.”
The win avenged a neon blip in Boro’s steady upward curve under Mowbray this year. His side went into the game with just one defeat in 19 – that a 3-1 reverse at Burnley back in April. “I was conscious of that and determined not to let it happen again, ” Mowbray said.
“You look for different angles to motivate the team and I pointed to that result and that performance and told them not to let Burnley spoil the run again and that seemed to have helped.”
Boro were having a torrid time after a shaky start when a crisp move carved open Burnley for Nicky Bailey to crack in the opener after 10 minutes.
Then, after a sluggish start to the second half, Joe Bennett surged forward to engineer and score the second.
Bailey had arrived at Boro as a goal-scoring midfielder but has been dropped deep to play in a holding role and rarely gets forward while Bennett has had plenty of chances over the past year only to be left frustrated by near misses and good saves.
“It’s always good when someone who you don’t expect to score pops up with one, ” added Mowbray. “I’m delighted for them.
“I’m delighted for Joe. Last season he looked every inch a top Premier League footballer.
“He has had an awkward start this time and the goal will do him the world of good.
“Nicky scores a lot of goals in training but I tell him not to cross the halfway line in games.
“He believes he can score goals but he does a fantastic defensive job for us.
“He has an instinct for spotting danger and snuffing it out and hopefully he’ll continue doing that for us.”
BURNLEY: Jensen, Trippier, Edgar, Mee, Easton, Wallace, McCann, Marney (Bartley 70), Treacy (Stanislas 51), Rodriguez, Austin (Hines 70). Subs (not used): Grant, Amougou.
Booked: Treacy, Wallace, Rodriguez.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Ikeme, McMahon, Bates, McManus (Haroun 4), Bennett, Hoyte, Rhys Williams, Bailey, Robson (Arca 80), Emnes (Zemmama 85), McDonald. Subs (not used): Kink, Martin.
Booked: Bennett, Robson.
Goals: Bailey 10, Bennett 49.
Referee: Mark Haywood (W Yorks) Attendance: 15,220