Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis hopes that his strikers’ success in last night’s win over Hull City will spur them to even greater heights in the final two-and-a-half months of the season.
Rudy Gestede had not scored a Championship goal since August prior to lining up against the Tigers.
But the French striker found the back of the net twice as Boro moved back to within two points of the play-off places thanks to a 3-1 win.
Patrick Bamford had been similarly unsuccessful in his previous outings this term, but his clinical finish on the stroke of half-time ensured Boro regained the lead – after Evandro equalised for Hull – and left Pulis purring.
The Boro manager said: “We’ve been a little bit shy in front of goal, so for Rudy to get two is great, and he could have had a third one really with the one that hit the post.
“He could have come off tonight with a hat-trick. He’s missed a bit of the season, and his fitness levels are not what you’d really want them to be.
“Patrick was having quite a poor time in the first half, but then he comes up with that wonderful, wonderful goal, which will give him a lift.
“That’s what he needs.”
Pulis had been disappointed with his side’s efforts in the 1-0 weekenddefeat at Cardiff, but they are unbeaten in their last three home games and remain in the play-off mix.
He said: “It was a great three points for us, and I think we deserved the victory.
“There were good things and bad things again, and during the game that can frustrate you, but it’s a really good three points. Hull have some good players, and they’re well set up. They’re difficult to play against, so scoring three goals at home and winning, I’m really pleased.”
Hull are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference and, while Nigel Adkins’ side enjoyed plenty of possession at the Riverside, they were undone by a series of sloppy defensive errors.
The opener came on 16 minutes. Adama Traore sent Ryan Shotton scampering away on the overlap and after Bamford flicked on the full-back’s cross from the corner of the six-yard box, an unmarked Gestede had the simple task of nodding past keeper Allan McGregor.
Hull levelled when Boro dozed at a corner as Jon Toral pulled the ball back to the corner of the area and Evandro swept home an excellent first-time finish.
On the stroke of half-time, Ola Aina’s slack square ball to Michael Hector was intercepted by Bamford and the Boro striker did the rest, sprinting clear to lift a deft finish over the onrushing McGregor.
Boro hit a third goal shortly before the hour mark. Traore’s searing pace once again pierced Hull’s defence and, after he cut the ball back from the byline, Gestede claimed his second goal.
Hull boss Nigel Adkins said: “The three goals we conceded were awful. We started the game well, and we ended up with 66 per cent of possession. We also had more shots than Middlesbrough.
“But the goals were gave away were dreadful, and if you’re defending like that, you’re never going to win anything. I thought we had eradicated that, but it’s individuals making basic errors and you can’t afford to do that.
“It was far too easy for them to score. The first goal was way too easy for them, and then we get ourselves back into the game with a great goal from Evandro, one from the training ground, but then we shoot ourselves in the foot again right on the stroke of half-time.
“The three goals we gave away are not acceptable. We have come away to a good team and played well, but we’ve gifted them three goals and you just cannot afford to do that.”
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Fry, Friend, Besic (Clayton 66), Leadbitter, Downing (Cranie 84), Traore, Gestede, Bamford (Howson 71). Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Assombalonga, Harrison, Baker.Booked: Gestede. Goals: Gestede 16 & 58, Bamford 45.
Hull: McGregor, Hector, Dawson, MacDonald, Tomori (Diomande 76), Evandro, Toral (Grosicki 66), Irvine, Aina, Campbell, Keane.Subs not used: Meyler, Dicko, Marshall, Clark, Stewart. Booked: Dawson. Goal: Evandro 41.
Ref: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire).