MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray wants his side to continue their climb away from Championship trouble in order to avoid a nervy finale to the season.
Boro are on a six-game unbeaten run and travel to fellow-strugglers Crystal Palace tomorrow afternoon (kick off 3pm).
The Teessiders have, however, managed to claw themselves clear of the relegation zone having collected 12 points from the last 18 on offer, and Mowbray says they can ill afford to take their foot off the gas.
“We’re on a six-game unbeaten run but we’re still not too far away from the bottom three,” he said.
“So let’s get in a position with about 10 games to go where we don’t have to look over our shoulder and worry about those behind us.”
He added: “It was important that we won on Tuesday night against Scunthorpe because I look at the matches in February and see some very good footballing sides, like QPR and Swansea, coming here.
“They are capable of giving us very hard games but there’s not a great deal between any of the teams in this division, so when QPR come here I expect to see us dominating possession at times.”
The Boro manager has had a steady stream of encouraging news from the Rockliffe Park medical department in recent weeks, but a testing run of games will come too soon for most of his recovering stars.
He explained: “We’ve got a few players to come back from injury yet, particularly in midfield where we’ve got the likes of Barry Robson and Kevin Thomson out and then Rhys Williams and Willo Flood not too far away from being ready to try to win a place in the team.
“So we will be stronger when they are available again but February will be a huge test for us. We have to be ready for that.”
Meanwhile, Mowbray has admitted he had hoped to move on more of the club’s high-earners during the transfer window.
Boro sold David Wheater to Bolton and Gary O’Neil to West Ham last month while sending Lee Miller out on loan, but despite speculation regarding the likes of Kris Boyd, Leroy Lita and Julio Arca, they remain on Teesside.
And Mowbray said: “We were in a situation where we probably needed to do some more business in the window.
“It didn’t happen. We are where we are, now we have to get on with it. You close the doors behind you and get on.
“The club, ideally in the window, would have liked to have lost one or two more just to financially steady the ship a little bit.
“But hopefully on the field, the progress keeps coming and the team can continue to get some decent results.
“Hopefully the turnstiles turn, the crowds come back and we would probably look to next season to try to kick off on a positive note, see where we get to and try to get the place buzzing again.”
Mowbray is likely to name an unchanged side for tomorrow’s clash with Dougie Freedman’s Eagles.