Middlesbrough's top three performers of pre-season as two youngsters take their chance to impress
Middlesbrough wrapped up their pre-season schedule with a 1-1 draw against St-Etienne on Sunday – but which players took their chance to impress this summer following the appointment of new head coach Jonathan Woodgate?
We take a closer look at some of the standout Boro performers from the last few weeks.
Hayden Coulson – The 21-year-old left-back has won plenty of plaudits in the last few weeks after his impressive performances against Hartlepool, Bishop Auckland, Salford and St-Etienne.
With club captain and regular full-back George Friend still recovering from last season’s injury, Coulson has taken his opportunities and now looks set to start in Boro’s Championship opener at Luton on Friday evening.
Friend, 31, could return for the side’s first home game of the season against Brentford on August 10 but may face a challenge to win his place back.
Adam Clayton – The experienced midfielder has looked more confident in the anchorman role this summer, with Woodgate keen for his holding midfielder to play with the ball and dictate play.
After signing for Boro in 2014, Clayton has been praised for his defensive attributes when operating in front of the side’s back four, yet the 30-year-old has also shown his passing qualities during pre-season.
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Clayton executed an excellent ball over the top for Boro’s second goal at Gateshead, which was converted by Ashley Fletcher, and has created more chances for the players in front of him under the new regime.
Aynsley Pears – Following his impressive loan spell in the National League at Gateshead last season, Pears has shown his vast potential with Boro this summer.
Following the Teessiders’ 3-1 win at Salford last week, Woodgate described Pears’ performance as ‘outstanding’ after the 21-year-old made a couple of fine saves.
Pears could also be heard barking out instructions to his experienced centre-backs, Daniel Ayala and Ryan Shotton, as he kept Boro’s backline in check.
Woodgate said earlier this summer that Pears will be sent out on loan this season, yet, with some doubts over Darren Randolph’s fitness, the youngster may have a chance of starting at Luton.