AITOR Karanka knows his Middlesbrough history.
The club’s first-ever overseas boss is well aware the League Cup is the only trophy Boro have ever won, beating Bolton in 2004.
He also knew last night was the 19th anniversary of the opening of the Riverside Stadium – perhaps the first man to score at the ground had made mention of it, his assistant manager, Craig Hignett.
Last night’s Capital One Cup second round win over Preston North End was as far removed from those heady days against Bolton and Chelsea as you could get.
However, after the abject nature of Saturday’s Championship home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday, Boro needed to win last night and win well.
They did just that after two stunning goals from Lee Tomlin ensured they avoided a potential banana skin as they saw off their League One opponents.
Young Boro striker Bradley Fewster pressured Tom Clarke into turning into his own net as they eventually put North End to the sword after they had briefly levelled through Jordan Hugill.
“It was a difficult game, but the most important thing was to win after the match against Sheffield Wednesday,” said the Spanish coach, who made six changes from the side that lost 3-2 to the Owls on Saturday.
“I am happy because this is a difficult competition, look at Man United losing 4-0 [at MK Dons].
“It is 19 years to the day since the first game at the Riverside so this was a good day for us.
“This is a very important competition for me and I’m happy that we won.
“The first half was not very good but the second was much better.”
Karanka, who revealed that he is close to finalising a deal for Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford and expects him to be playing for Boro this weekend against Reading, also had praise for two-goal hero Tomlin, who lit up the Riverside.
“I know what kind of player he is and I expected more from him last Saturday and I expect more from him this Saturday,” he added.
“He can be the difference between our team and the other team.
“The way he played here – the second half anyway –was in contrast to the way he played against Wednesday.
“Sometimes he is very comfortable and forgets to work for the team.
“But he needs to work 100 per cent for the team and when he does that he is a very good player.”
The first half was almost totally devoid of attacking intent from either side in front of a crowd of just over 10,000.
Boro had not lacked possession and they moved the ball around efficiently without ever remotely threatening Simon Grayson’s side who have begun their League One programme with great promise.
Grayson had matched the number of team changes made by Karanka – six – but it was the Lilywhites who had the best chance of the opening 45 minutes only for Will Hayhurst to fluff his lines in the home box.
The tie burst into life after 51 minutes when Tomlin curled home a brilliant free-kick for Boro from just outside the box after he was upended by John Welsh.
But Preston responded within two minutes – from Hayhurst’s cross, Jack King flicked the ball on and boyhood Middlesbrough fan and local boy Hugill headed in unmarked at the far post.
In a remarkable six-minute period, which was in stark contrast to the whole of the first half, Boro then regained the initiative when Albert Adomah’s cross was forced into his own net by defender Clarke who was put under pressure by Fewster.
Clarke almost made amends when he came close to nodding Preston level again from another Hayhurst delivery, but could not keep his header down from six yards.
Boro took advantage to stretch their lead after a brilliant, mazy run from Tomlin ended with a low shot into the corner of the net from 18 yards.
Fewster deserved a goal for his efforts up front and the youngster almost got one after latching on to a glorious pass from sub Emmanuel Ledesma, but King blocked his shot.