Middlesbrough’s win over Wigan on Friday put them back on top
PATRICK Bamford’s latest goal in a Middlesbrough shirt got Teesside dreaming of the Premier League – even if Aitor Karanka is desperate to stop supporters getting carried away.
Boro will head to automatic promotion rivals Watford on Monday top of the table courtesy of a hard-earned three points against a Wigan Athletic team seemingly destined for League One.
The Latics are five points adrift of safety after yet another defeat; this time courtesy of Bamford’s 15th goal in the Championship since his loan move from Chelsea.
The 21-year-old’s fifth goal in his last six matches has equalled the best league return of a Middlesbrough player in the last 18 years, to keep Karanka’s team right in the promotion mix.
But Karanka said: “I know how important it is to win at this stage of the season. We did our job and now we have three more points and one game less to go.
“The performance was not as good as everyone wanted but the main thing is to win.We have six to go and the squad is confident and we are ready for Monday at Watford. I never go into a game thinking we can draw, so we go there thinking we can beat them.
“The message to the supporters is to keep calm. I said it was going to be a tight race and so it will be.
“This league is very tough and I want to thank the fans for their support because it is brilliant when the stands are full. They deserve to be in this position. We just need them to stick with us.”
While the Riverside was rocking at the final whistle as the battle for a Premier League return intensifies, Wigan’s travelling support must be resigned to life back in League One.
Latics boss Malky Mackay, who faces Derby on Monday, said: “I am really disappointed we didn’t get anything out of the game. I don’t think it is outrageous to say we deserved something going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the division.
“We were terrific in the second half and we had four good chances, but it is about sticking the ball in the net, which is something Wigan have had an issue with since the start of the season.”
Wigan had arrived in the north-east boasting four straight victories on their travels which had raised concerns among the Middlesbrough camp.
But after a bright enough start, the home side comfortably saw out the first half after Bamford’s 20th-minute opener – even though clear-cut chances were few and far between.
The winning goal actually came when a Wigan corner was badly dealt with by Dimi Konstantopoulos. The loose ball ended up at the feet of Adam Clayton, and after Albert Adomah and Jelle Vossen combined in style it was Bamford whose delicate shot defelected off a defender and inside Ali Al-Habsi’s bottom corner.
Al-Habsi made a couple of stops from Bamford after that but Wigan could quite easily have been level by the time the fulltime whistle was blown.
Konstantopoulos made a save to deny striker Marc Antoine-Fortune, while James McClean and Jermaine Pennant wasted glorious chances.
But Middlesbrough, who were indebted to a brilliant display by Jonathan Woodgate, did enough to get the job done.
PATRICK’S DAY: On-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford continued his stunning form with another goal for Middlesbrough
his strike HUGS: Bamford celebrates