Tony Pulis praises youngsters as TEN academy graduates help Middlesbrough to penalty win
Middlesbrough have progressed into the Fourth Round of the Carabao Cup after a penalty shootout victory over Preston North End.
And manager Tony Pulis had his youngsters to thank, with no fewer than ten academy graduates playing their part in the cup success at Deepdale.
Having made 11 changes to his side, Pulis saw Middlesbrough fall behind to Callum Robinson's first-half strike - although Ashley Fletcher quickly levelled.
A howler from Dimi Konstantopolous then handed the lead back to the hosts as Tom Barkhuizen's shot slipped under his body.
But Marcus Tavernier restored parity and - after the remaining twenty minutes failed to separate the sides - Boro triumphed 4-3 on penalties.
And Pulis has been quick to praise the club's academy graduates who played a vital part in the cup success - while the experienced manager is keen to see even more young prospects progress through the ranks.
“I thought it was a really good performance," he admitted.
“The first team have done really well this season, they have been pretty consistent since the season started so there hasn’t been many changes.
“So there’s a lot of senior players who haven’t had a game then you go onto the kids and we’ve had four kids in the starting XI and six on the bench.
“So we’ve got 10 kids that have come through the Academy system that have been involved tonight which I think is fabulous for the football club. It’s great for the area, it shows that the people that are doing the job in the Academy are doing things the right way.
“We’re together as a football club. Some academies are a little bit distant but we’re not, we’re together and we want to bring these kids through.
“There’s Woody (Nathan) only 16-years-of-age, Tav (Tavernier), they were absolutely fantastic tonight, Harry’s (Chapman) come on and done smashing, Wingy (Lewis Wing) as well, so yes it’s been really good."
And despite fielding a fairly young side, there were no Middlesbrough nerves when it came to the penalty shootout.
Indeed, Pulis joked that his players were actually fighting over the right to take a spot kick, such was their confidence.
He added: "The only thing I will say is I wanted Grant to be first, to pick the baton up, and the rest were all fighting over it!
“In addition to the five that were selected, there was another five behind them who all wanted to take them so that’s brilliant really.
“The ones that are confident take the penalties, it’s no good forcing someone to take a penalty if they don’t fancy it. But they all fancied it.”