‘Calmer’ Karanka has be­lief in Boro to suc­ceed this time

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL - By Steven Sut­cliffe at the Macron Sta­dium

Ai­tor Karanka, the Mid­dles­brough man­ager, has stressed that he is a lot “calmer” and more “con­fi­dent” this time around as the Tee­side club en­ter the fi­nal fur­long of their quest to reach the Premier League.

Boro, who main­tained their lead at the top of the Cham­pi­onship cour­tesy of two Jor­dan Rhodes goals – the sec­ond in stop­page time – against al­ready rel­e­gated Bolton, are em­broiled in a three-way fight with Burn­ley and Brighton for the two au­to­matic pro­mo­tion spots.

Mid­dles­brough travel to Turf Moor to­mor­row for a po­ten­tially piv­otal clash, finsinf them­selves in a very sim­i­lar po­si­tion to last sea­son, when they were com­pet­ing with Bournemouth, Wat­ford and Nor­wich. They were un­able to stay the course and lost to Nor­wich in the play-off fi­nal at Wem­b­ley.

Karanka’s ten­ure at Mid­dles­brough had ap­peared to be at an end a lit­tle over a month ago. In­con­sis­tent re­sults and a row with play­ers had led Mid­dles­brough’s Span­ish man­ager to walk out of the train­ing ground ahead of a de­feat by Charl­ton Ath­letic. How­ever, his restora­tion has co­in­cided with six con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries and a swelling be­lief that this time they will pre­vail.

“One month ago I wanted to leave, the play­ers were a prob­lem with me – this is the best ex­am­ple [of how things can change],” Karanka said.

“We lost games and they were games when we thought we were go­ing to win eas­ily. We made mis­takes and lost those games. Now af­ter Hull we knew that we were at the most im­por­tant part of the sea­son and that we needed to be ready.

“I am much calmer than last sea­son be­cause I have a much bet­ter squad than I had last sea­son, they are more ma­ture, stronger and the fix­tures are bet­ter than we had last sea­son.”

Bolton tested that re­newal of con­fi­dence. De­spite ad­min­is­ter­ing a first-half shel­lack­ing, Karanka’s team – who had turned a deficit into vic­tory just once pre­vi­ously all cam­paign – trailed to Josh Vela’s 61st-minute goal.

Karanka added: “In the past when we con­ceded a goal, to come back was al­most im­pos­si­ble but now, like Tues­day and to­day [Satur­day], we can come back, which shows how strong and con­fi­dent we are.

“I was calmer than when we played against Rother­ham, Charl­ton or oth­ers in games be­cause I know how strong and con­fi­dent they are and how much they be­lieve. We are here in this po­si­tion play­ing as a team for a rea­son, we know play­ing in our way we can score at any time.”

Burn­ley stayed within two points of the league lead­ers with a 2-1 vic­tory at Birm­ing­ham City. Striker An­dre Gray’s 24th goal of the sea­son won it late on for the Lan­cashire side af­ter Birm­ing­ham’s Jac­ques Maghoma had can­celled out Ge­orge Boyd’s opener.

The win stretched Burn­ley’s un­beaten run to 19 games and meant they re­mained two points ahead of Brighton in third.

“There is a great be­lief among the play­ers and there is cer­tainly en­ergy and de­sire,” said Sean Dy­che, the Burn­ley man­ager.

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