Karanka shocked by Middlesbrough’s position

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka

Aitor Karanka admitted that he did not expect Middlesbrough to have an eight-point cushion at the top of the Championship in January.

The Boro manager watched on as his side beat Brentford 1-0 at Griffin Park last night to send them six points clear of second-placed Derby, and two pints further ahead of third-placed Hull City.

I couldn’t imagine we were going to be six points clear.

Karanka says he had imagined his side would be in the play-off places.

“To be honest, this I couldn’t imagine at the beginning of the season. But we have to keep calm,” he said after the game.

“I thought the three teams who were relegated from the Premier League - Hull, QPR and Burnley – (would be stronger) and Derby last season were strong until the end, and Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday.

“I couldn’t imagine we were going to be six points clear with one game less (than Derby).

“I thought we would be fighting for these positions, the play-offs or top of the table, so it’s a nice surprise for me.

“We have to handle this moment in the right way, because it can be dangerous. We are in January and the other teams, for sure, are going to strengthen their squads.

“If we think everything is done then we make a big mistake.”

Button’s own goal characterised the fortune that Boro are enjoying, although the luck is built on their solid defence that kept their ninth successive league clean sheet – equalling a second-tier record.

“When you are at the top of the table, things like that (the goal) can often happen. We were lucky today,” the Spaniard added.

“The first half the score could have been completely different. They had chances and we made two or three mistakes.

“Sometimes you pay for mistakes but when you are top of the table that doesn’t always happen.”

Of the defensive solidity, he said: “It doesn’t matter who is playing because the main thing is the team and every single one of them have a really good relationship.

“It’s nice because it’s a reflection of how this team is working and not just the keeper. Today was perfect yet again”