SEB Hines admits that Middlesbrough’s rookie rearguard have been on a steep learning curve in recent weeks.
Former England youth star Hines, Tony McMahon, Jonathan Grounds and Joe Bennett, with an average age of just under 22, have formed the backbone of Tony Mowbray’s side against some of the Championship’s top teams in recent matches.
Their latest lesson came when Nottingham Forest stole a point at the Riverside on Tuesday night as Dele Adebola pounced to steal a draw in the second minute of injury-time.
That late heartache was on the back of last weekend’s 3-0 drubbing at home to league leaders QPR.
Hines, though, believes the young back four are growing as a unit with every game they play.
“We’re probably one of the youngest back fours in the league and there’s always going to be that added pressure,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Reading.
“We are inexperienced but we’re learning every game and Tuesday’s game can only help us.”
Hines had been the man charged with the task of marking point-snatcher Adebola, who had replaced David McGoldrick in the second half.
And the Wetherby-born centre-back added: “Adebola was more of a physical player than McGoldrick and likes to use his body more so I knew what I was in for, but I thought Groundsy and I dealt with it quite well. “But we’ve got to take it (the late equaliser) on the chin and now we move on to Saturday against Reading.
“It was disappointing, though, because we put a massive effort into it, coming on the back of the QPR game. “We wanted to show we can beat anyone in this league and they’re up there fighting for promotion.
“We put a massive effort in I can’t tell you how disappointed the lads were in the changing room with the result. “It was a much better team performance than against QPR - we didn’t give them as many chances and I thought we deserved to win.”
Meanwhile, Aussie midfielder Rhys Williams is hoping to win a place on the team bus ahead of the journey to Berkshire having came through 84 minutes of the reserve-team defeat against Hartlepool United this week.
Williams has been sidelined by a pelvic problem for the best part of a year but says he is now ready for selection.
“It was massive for me to play my first competitive game for 11 months,” said the 22-year-old.
“It’s brought me much closer to my goal of returning to the first team.
“It’s been a long, long time. Now I feel ready. I am fully fit again.
“I have to stay involved and fight my way into the team.
“Nothing would please me more than to be part of the squad at Reading on Saturday, but that’s down to the gaffer.