Danny Graham ‘quality’ will give Middlesbrough goals in play-off push

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka

AITOR Karanka is hoping a fully-fit Danny Graham will fire the much-needed goals to get Boro on the winning trail again.

Graham, back at his first club, returned in Middlesbrough’s stalemate with play-off chasing Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

For the 28-year-old, it was his first start since Boxing Day when he lined up for Hull City against Manchester United before his loan deal on Humberside was terminated and he put pen to paper on another loan stint, this time with Boro.

The centre-forward was unable to mark his Teesside return with a goal as Boro failed to hit the net for the fourth consecutive game.

But his new gaffer is sure that with a few weeks of training under his belt, Graham has the quality to take the Championship by storm.

“Danny will be very important for us,” said Karanka.

“He has experience, he has goals, he needs to work hard every day because when he has the intensity he will be very important.

“The most important thing is he is confident. He wants to do everything well, he wants to improve.

“I can see him every training session working very well and because of this he will be fit and with his quality the goals will arrive, and his work for the team is very important.”

Five wins in six saw Boro storm up the table and get within touching distance of the play-off pack.

But their inability to hit the net in previous weeks has slowed that charge.

Karanka though, insists he is not focusing on the play-offs, instead looking at each game as it comes and making sure Boro get back to winning ways.

“Play-offs are not in my mind,” he said. “In my mind is the game against Watford.

“We have two and a half, three months to fight to win every game.

“At this moment we are four matches without a win, I don’t want to think about the play-offs.”

While Boro might not be finding the net at the minute, they’re making sure they don’t lose games by establishing an ever-improving record at the back.

Seven clean sheets in the last 10 games have done a lot to wipe the memories of early season defensive clangers with Shay Given having now gone three games without conceding a goal.

And with that solid back-line building the foundation of the side, Karanka is backing his forward-thinking players to turn draws into wins.

“When I don’t win I am not happy,” he said.

“But I will work with my team because they did in the first half (against Blackburn) all of the things I told them and for this I am happy with them. We need to keep working in this way.”