GRANT Leadbitter is braced for a classic top of the table clash at the Riverside on Saturday when Middlesbrough have the chance to take pole position.
Boro host surprise Sky Bet Championship leaders Bournemouth in a mouthwatering showdown between the in-form sides locked on 30 points.
The Cherries, the division’s top scorers on 33 goals, come up against the meanest defence with Boro having only conceded 12.
It looks as though something will have to give and Leadbitter says second-placed Boro will have to be at their very best against Eddie Howe’s side which he has great admiration for.
Boro are playing well themselves, having scored seven times in the last two matches, though Leadbitter says they must up the ante, even after a 4-0 trouncing of Norwich.
“Eddie Howe has a great footballing team down there,” said the midfielder, who scored twice in the win over the Canaries on Tuesday night.
“He’s one of the good young coaches who is doing well in the game.
“Bournemouth are not top for nothing, they are no mugs and they will be coming up here full of confidence.
“We’ll have to stop them.
“They like to attack but so do we – Saturday will be two good teams fighting for the three points.
“We have to concentrate on playing well and trying to play better than the other night.
“We weren’t at our best but we still came out 4-0 winners.
“Norwich are a good team and we were a bit fortunate to be two up at half-time.
“But we came out deserved winners in the second half.
“We are on a roll at the moment but we need to keep that going – we have a very tough game on Saturday.
“While we are enjoying it, you can’t be complacent in this league because if you are it comes back to bite you.”
After Patrick Bamford had put Boro ahead early on at the Riverside, Leadbitter scored either side of the break, the first from the penalty spot and the second a header from Lee Tomlin’s pass.
The final goal came from a Leadbitter corner, sub Yanic Wildschut netting.
Aitor Karanka’s team moved above previous leaders Watford to hold the second automatic promotion place.
Leadbitter is “enjoying” his time though he admitted he’d have loved a hat-trick on Tuesday.
“A shame I didn’t, but we won the game which was more important,” the former Sunderland midfielder told BBC Tees.
“I wanted three, but that’s football.
“I’m enjoying my football and it’s good to chip in goals for the team.
“We have a great dressing room and I love playing with the lads.”