BEN Gibson says that Middlesbrough’s impressive record against fellow play-off teams can be used to their advantage.
Boro visit Brentford tonight (kick off 7.45pm) in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final, with the return leg at the Riverside in a week’s time.
Aitor Karanka’s side have scored four times in one game against each of their play-off rivals this season, thrashing the Bees 4-0 in September, replicating that result against Norwich City in November and beating Ipswich Town 4-1 two months ago.
Gibson points to those results as an indication of Boro’s superiority over the sides and has demanded that his team-mates remember those matches to serve as inspiration.
“Our record against those teams has been fantastic,” the central defender told BBC Tees.
“We’ve beat every team in the play-offs and hopefully we can take that into these games.
“But these games have gone now so we have to look at Brentford.
“It’s a completely new game from what it was when we played them at home and away.
“We prepare for the game in the same way we have done all season. It’s what we play our careers for, these games, these moments and it’s up to us now to make them count.”
Boro added to their home victory against Mark Warburton’s London side with a 1-0 win at Griffin Park in January.
The Teessiders were second-best for much of that encounter, as Gibson acknowledges, but the ability to win without playing well also stacks up in their favour.
“It was a real tough game,” he recalled. “We won 1-0, defended really well, (but) we were a little bit sloppy on the ball.
“We didn’t really do ourselves justice that day, but that was one of many games this season where we’ve got the result we’ve wanted without playing the way we wanted.
“Hopefully this time we’ll go and play the way we want and again have a similar result.”
The players have trained in Marbella, Spain, this week as Karanka opted for a warm weather training camp as opposed to their usual surroundings at Rockliffe Park.
Tonight’s game is Boro’s 53rd of the season but fitness levels are not declining. “There’s not a problem with energy levels (and) there’s not going to be,” Gibson said.
“We’ve got fit players and motivated players for the massive challenge ahead and exciting challenge ahead.”
Meanwhile Brentford boss Mark Warburton has warned Boro that his men are not in the play-offs to make up the numbers.
There were rumours that Boro did not push for a winner late on in their goalless draw against Brighton on the final day of the season as they preferred to face Brentford, who finished fifth, rather than sixth-placed Ipswich.
But Bees manager Warburton said: “If a team wants to play Brentford, then great. If they beat Brentford, that is justified. If they don’t, then what goes around comes around.
“Anybody would use the right tool to motivate the players but they are not fools. We are never going to underestimate Middlesbrough or show them a lack of respect.
“But I’m sure they will be well aware of us as well. They will recognise they were fortunate to get away with a 1-0 win at Griffin Park and will show us respect.
“It’s important not to give the impression that we just scraped into the play-offs, and that we’re just here to make up numbers. It’s far from that.”