FREE-scoring Middlesbrough visit Hartlepool United this evening (kick off 7.30pm) – and Tony Mowbray admits pre-season could not have gone any better.
The Teessiders have smashed 12 goals in their first two friendlies with no sign of last season’s woes in front of the posts.
Mowbray has given game time to the majority of his squad and finished their last match – a 5-0 victory over a Tottenham Hotspur development squad in Portugal – with several Academy products on the pitch.
The Boro boss will again use this evening’s game to explore a number of tactical options, but he believes their summer plans are right on track with the new season now less than two weeks away.
“They are working very hard on the training ground and as a coach it is great to see the fruition of that in the games,” said Mowbray.
“I’m pleased for boys who all put in such a good effort.
“From the moment they came back they’ve applied themselves to the job and done everything we’ve asked of them and more.
“Sometimes new faces in the building give everybody a lift and a spark with people competing for positions and we have to try and maintain that.”
It was goals from Nicky Bailey, Scot McDonald, Curtis Main, Cameron Park and Andy Halliday which secured the resounding victory over a young Spurs side.
And Mowbray went on: “Let’s put it into context, they were a development squad and mainly under 21 years old but still they will have paid a lot of money for some of those players.
“In the first 20 minutes they were very confident and looked a slick team. It was a good exercise for us to nick it off them and go and threaten their goal.
“Ultimately we could have scored a lot more than the five we managed.”
But, scorelines aside, Mowbray has been delighted with the application of his men.
“There were some pleasing aspects, the players are listening and taking on board what we are doing in training and they have shown a fantastic attitude,” he said. “It was a great test for the young lads to compare Tottenham’s young talent with our young talent, when you think we finished the game with the likes of Adam Reach, Cameron Park, Luke Williams, Curtis Main and Andy Halliday, it was a very, very young side on the pitch.
“I thought they did really, really well and it will give them all confidence that they can impact on the team this year.”
FOR six pages of super sport coverage see Tuesday’s Hartlepool Mail