MIDDLESBROUGH head coach Aitor Karanka praised Dimi Konstantopoulos after the goalkeeper helped keep their promotion challenge alive with a crucial 2-0 win over Huddersfield.
Lee Tomlin scored twice in the second half as the Terriers’ 29-year wait for a win on Teesside continued.
But Karanka singled outformer Hartlepool star Konstantopoulos for his performance after the Greek shot-stopper pulled off three world-class saves late on.
He first managed to get a hand to ex-Boro man Jacob Butterfield’s stinging shot before denying Town striker Nahki Wells twice.
Karanka said: “He’s the type of player I would have liked to have in my squad during my playing career.
“He’s the kind of player who is always perfect. It’s easy to say this now because he was brilliant.
“You can forget he was the fourth goalkeeper when we arrived here. He just worked hard in training every day and kept supporting the other players.
“He was the second goalkeeper when Shay Given arrived last year and he always supported him. He was the second goalkeeper when Tomas (Mejias) arrived last summer and he always supported him.
“So for me, I am very pleased to see him play and do very well for us.”
With Championship promotion rivals Bournemouth, Ipswich, Brentford and Watford all winning, it was crucial Boro bagged all three points at the Riverside – but it was touch and go, with Town pressuring late on.
Karanka said: “I’m very confident with my squad and with our strikers.
“We’ve scored two and I was very happy when we scored because I thought we would go on and score more. I am still very confident about my squad and about my strikers.
“Every single point is important. Every game is one game less to the end and the points we’ve lost now is difficult to make up. So three points is very important.
“If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, the last three or four games, we’ll win most games.”
Huddersfield’s away form remains a major concern for manager Chris Powell, but he was encouraged by the way his side responded to going behind.
“It was the sort of away performance that I’ve been looking for,” he said.
“The result was tough to take against a side with ambitions to go up. They have good players and have spent good money, but we more than matched them. On another day we could have had a point.”
Boro went agonisingly close to opening the scoring as early as the sixth minute when Kike was inches away from bagging seventh of the season.
The Spanish striker cleverly stepped past Mark Hudson before shooting from the edge of the area, but his effort rebounded back off Smithies’ right-hand post.
Patrick Bamford had a great chance to put Boro ahead in the 10th minute when he brilliantly controlled a ball over the top and rounded Smithies before rolling the ball just wide.
Karanka’s men continued to press and in the 42nd minute former Huddersfield midfielder Adam Clayton found himself in a great position on the edge of the box but could not get over the ball enough and blazed over the bar.
Within a minute of the restart, Bamford did well to wriggle past Hudson on the touchline before pulling back for Kike, but he skewed his shot well wide.
And Tomlin was the next to go close in the 48th minute when he charged forward before blasting over the bar from the edge of the box.
In a rare Huddersfield attack, ex-Boro midfielder Butterfield probed around the edge of the box before unleashing a left-footed effort which flashed well wide.
Boro found the elusive goal just after the hour when Tomlin picked up a loose ball and opened up before hammering home a rocket from 20 yards.
Town almost hit back just two minutes later when Butterfield’s thundering long-range effort was tipped round the post by Konstantopoulos.
The visitors almost levelled in the 78th minute when Wells curled a brilliant left-footed effort beyond Konstantopoulos but it came back off the post.
The Boro keeper denied Wells again twice in the last minute with two fine saves.
It made for a nail-biting finale as the Terriers pressured for a late equaliser, with Tomlin breaking away in the 94th minute before rolling into an empty net with the last kick of the game.