AITOR Karanka thanked his Middlesbrough players for providing a triumphant end to a tough week.
Karanka has endured a trying time, a parting of the ways with assistant manager Craig Hignett plus a FA charge of misconduct.
But a 22-minute hat-trick from Jelle Vossen in the first half – his first goals for Boro – and a goal apiece for Patrick Bamford and Kike ensured a 5-1 victory for Boro at Millwall and helped erase some worries for the Spaniard.
“I’m very pleased and not just because of the score. The performance was great,” Karanka said. “You know how difficult this week has been for me and the reaction of the team was excellent.
“The first half was perfect but I told them at half-time that our biggest mistake could be to think that everything was done because we know how difficult it is to play football here.
“We let a goal in but we still created a lot of chances again and scored another goal.
“The big thing is the performance and the reaction.”
Karanka is notorious for rotating his starting XI but it came as a surprise when both Vossen and Bamford were chosen to spearhead the attack, usual incumbents Kike and Lee Tomlin settling for a place on the bench.
His decision, however, was justified. He added: “I am very pleased because he (Vossen) deserves this game because I told him that he works hard.
“He is a player who came from a good team in Belgium (Genk on a season-long loan), a national team player, and he’s here in the Championship without having played many games and he kept going in his best way for every single training session because he understood the spirit of the team.”
Boro’s next four matches will be a significant test of their promotion credentials with current occupants of the promotion places, Derby County and Ipswich, to play in the next fortnight. Games against Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers follow.