AI­TOR BACK

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Alex Narey

MID­DLES­BROUGH boss Ai­tor Karanka hailed the spirit of his play­ers af­ter David Nu­gent’s in­jury­time win­ner ended one of the most tem­pes­tu­ous pe­ri­ods in the club’s his­tory on Fri­day night.

A lit­tle over two weeks ago, vic­tory at home to Wolves saw the Teessiders march to the top of the Cham­pi­onship ta­ble.

But af­ter de­feats away to Rother­ham and Charl­ton – with Karanka’s bizarre ‘walk­out’ sand­wiched in­be­tween – Boro’s push for pro­mo­tion looked in tat­ters un­til sub­sti­tute Nu­gent sealed this un­likely three points against Hull City.

“It’s the best way to fin­ish the week,” said an emo­tional Karanka, who con­tin­ued to bat away ques­tions re­gard­ing his ab­sence from last week’s game at Charl­ton.

“I couldn’t imag­ine we would fin­ish the game in that way.We have played against one of the best teams in the league.

“I trust my play­ers and we showed that we need each other.

“This was about much more than the three points. We are to­gether again as a club.”

In truth, de­spite their man­ager’s re­turn, Boro looked like a side gasp­ing for con­fi­dence de­spite a rous­ing re­cep­tion and lively open­ing.

Hull, by and large, were im­pres­sive and de­served a point for their ef­forts. Quick to shut Boro down, Steve Bruce’s side also had their mo­ments in at­tack with the im­pres­sive Sone Aluko lead­ing the away side’s charge as they grew in stature.

But missed chances are be­com­ing the story of Hull’s sea­son and they were made to pay for two here. The first when Robert Sn­od­grass fired against the upright, the se­cond when Ahmed El­mo­hamady blasted over the bar with just eight min­utes re­main­ing.

“They were the two big chances of the game,” said Bruce. “Big chances in a big game like this, you have to take them.

“We can’t keep miss­ing chances like we are. It’s been the same now for the last four or five weeks.

“We have cre­ated two won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties against Mid­dles­brough, and we haven’t been able to take them.”

Karanka, who con­fessed to watch­ing last Sun­day’s des­per­ate 2-0 drub­bing at Charl­ton on TV, stuck to

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

ROAR OF DE­LIGHT: Boro boss Ai­tor Karanka cel­e­brates David Nu­gent’s dra­matic late win­ner

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