Middlesbrough boss ready for Millwall test

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka

DON’T panic. Aitor Karanka stopped short of impersonating Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army but that was the message he was trying to get across.

Middlesbrough are desperate to beat Millwall tonight to stay in the Sky Bet Championship automatic promotion places and put a mini-wobble behind them.

I am happy and I don’t know why anyone would be worried. Our supporters have to be proud of these players.

If fans’ reactions on BBC Tees are anything to judge by, the Boro faithful are starting to get a little jittery.

Boro have put themselves under pressure after losing twice in the last three games, but they can get back on track by taming the Lions at the Riverside (kick-off 7.45pm).

But the p-words on the lips of Karanka are “promotion” and “pride” rather than pressure.

“I can’t understand why there should be concerns,” said the head coach.

“When I came here 15 months ago, the club was in a totally different position - two points above the relegation positions and now we are second in the table.

“I am happy and I don’t know why anyone would be worried.

“Our supporters have to be proud of these players.

“The fans have to support them in the same way they have been doing for the season.

“They have to know that we want it as much as them.

“We are working every single day to get promotion.

“We appreciate their support and we are doing everything well.”

Karanka though does admit that he wants to see Boro regain the sort of form which took them into the top two and the sort of form which crushed Millwall 5-1 at the New Den.

The third-bottom Lions have won only once in their last five - and just twice in 10 - and are six points from safety.

It would appear to be there for the taking but the Boro boss has warned against complacency.

“Our last performances have not been good for us,” he told BBC Tees. “The best way to forget those matches is to beat Millwall.

“It’s going to be a hard game because they are playing to stay in the Championship.

“If we go onto the pitch thinking it’s going to be an easy game it will be a big mistake.”

Karanka has admitted to making an error last month in suggesting it was a three-horse race for automatic promotion.

While Boro have lost no ground on leaders Derby, a return of three points from a possible nine has allowed the chasing to close the gap.

Only six points separate Boro in second and Wolves in eighth.

“I made a mistake,” explained Karanka. “I said it was going to be a race between Bournemouth, Derby and us, but two or three weeks later there are six or seven clubs fighting for those positions.

“Every single point now is going to be tough and we must fight for every one.”

George Friend, Grant Leadbitter and Lee Tomlin are set to return to the starting XI tonight after being named on the bench in the 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

Karanka says he has “trust” in all his players but concedes they must start finding the net.

“It is true we are doing well defensively but we have to score goals,” he said.

“I would be concerned if we were not creating chances but every game we have created a lot opportunities so it is up to us to score the goals.”