Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka says he is optimistic about his side’s promotion chances – because his players “look like they are really confident”.
Boro entertain mid-table Reading at the Riverside tonight (kick off 7.45pm) aware that a win will move them two points clear at the top of the Championship with just five games to go.
I don’t think about the other games, just tonight.
Such a position would make Boro - already assured of a play-off spot – the outright favourites to achieve an automatic promotion place, with their rivals Burnley and Brighton still to play away and at home respectively.
Boro’s mid-season wobble seems to be over, with Karanka steering the Teessiders to four successive wins.
“It will be difficult tonight but I am confident because the players look like they are really confident,” Karanka said.
“We’ve been waiting for this game and now we have the chance to earn another three points.
“We are in a really good position, we are playing well and winning games which is the most important thing for us.”
Karanka is well versed in the unpredictable nature of the Championship and knows that a defeat could come from anywhere and from any team, making it pivotal that this team remain fully concentrated.
“We have to fight for every single ball, every single set-piece and with the quality we have we can win games,” he added to mfc.co.uk.
“I don’t think about the other games, just tonight. We have been very good the last four games but if we lose tonight we have a problem.
“I’m not concerned about Burnley and Brighton. If we play in the way we are playing now, it is difficult to beat us.
“We have to forget the last four games and the next five games.”
This time last season Boro were cruising towards the Premier League before a mini-implosion set them back. History, Karanka says, can be of use.
“We need to know that last season after 40 games we were top and we finished fourth,” he said.
“So for this reason the past has been really good.
“Because of last season I don’t want to think about what will happen in one month, I want to think about tonight and then the following game.
“Going in that way is the only way to success. It’s always been in our hands.”
Meanwhile, Steve Sidwell’s injury-time goal snatched a 2-1 victory for Brighton just as Nottingham Forest were threatening to put a dent in their promotion push last night.
Dexter Blackstock cancelled out Lewis Dunk’s 27th-minute header with one of his own five minutes into the second half and Forest looked the more likely to snatch all three points.
But after both sides spurned good opportunities it was Brighton who finally took one, as Sidwell - only on the pitch for six minutes - swept home the winner in the 91st minute after fellow substitute Anthony Knockaert had danced through the Forest defence.
The result left the Seagulls two points behind leaders Burnley and a point off second-placed Middlesbrough as the Championship promotion race reaches an exciting finale.