Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka described his team’s 3-2 victory at QPR as “another massive three points” in their battle for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.
Last night’s win at Loftus Road took Boro up to second in the table, leapfrogging Brighton who face leaders Burnley this afternoon.
We are more mature and have a better squad than last seasonAITOR KARANKA
Jordan Rhodes put the visitors ahead before Jamie Mackie’s stunning strike hauled Rangers level.
But Gaston Ramirez headed in from a second-half corner by Grant Leadbitter, who had just had a penalty saved by Alex Smithies.
And Ben Gibson headed home after 56 minutes to put Boro in control, although they had to endure an anxious finish after Tjaronn Chery’s late goal for Rangers.
“It’s another massive three points and it was another typical Championship game,” said Karanka who has NEVER been beaten on a Friday night as Boro boss.
“We were playing a team in mid-table but they wanted every single ball and were fighting, but my team were really good.
“In the first 25 minutes of the second half we played really well. They caused us some problems but we are a consistent team and we won another three points that are really important for us.
“We made a few mistakes to be in the position we are now in – in January we were in a really good position.
“Now we can’t make any more mistakes. We have to keep going. We have to keep concentrated on the pitch because every single point is massive for us.”
He added: “When they equalised we were a little bit lost on the pitch, but when we play the way we usually play it is difficult to stop us.
“We are more mature and have a better squad than last season. Our aim is to learn from the past and be optimistic for the future.”
Boro went ahead after 17 minutes when Rhodes capitalised on an error by Grant Hall to score just his second goal since his move from Blackburn two months ago.
Hall misjudged Leadbitter’s punt forward and his failure to head clear allowed Rhodes to latch onto the ball and round Smithies.
Rhodes scuffed his left-footed shot from an awkward angle, but that left Hall off balance as he attempted to clear off the line and the defender was unable to keep the ball out of the net.
Mackie hauled Rangers level just after the half-hour mark with his first goal since returning to the club last summer.
He prevented George Friend from clearing Alejandro Faurlin’s free-kick and was quick to the resulting loose ball, turning and firing a ferocious volley from the edge of the penalty area which crossed the line after striking the underside of the crossbar.
The goal galvanised Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side and they finished the half strongly, but within 11 minutes of the restart they were 3-1 down.
Smithies dived low to his right to tip Leadbitter’s spot-kick behind after Faurlin had fouled Albert Adomah on the right-hand side of the penalty area.
But Leadbitter responded with a corner towards the near post that was headed in by Ramirez after the Uruguayan had got in front of defender Gabriele Angella.
And when Rangers again switched off at a set piece, this time when Gibson drifted away from Nedum Onuoha, they were punished once more.
Again the goal came from a corner immediately after a fine save from the in-form Smithies, who pushed away a powerful drive from Friend.
Smithies also did well to deny Rhodes after the striker found himself through on goal after Adomah had got the better of Angella.
QPR thought they had pulled a goal back when Sebastian Polter tapped in, but the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play before Junior Hoilett had diverted it towards the German striker.
There was no room for doubt, though, when Dutch midfielder Chery scored in his fifth consecutive home match, firing into the corner from 25 yards with four minutes remaining. But Boro held their nerve for another Friday night special.
QPR: Smithies, Onuoha, Hall, Angella, Perch, Mackie (El Khayati 69), Henry, Faurlin (Washington 79), Phillips (Hoilett 62), Chery, Polter. Subs Not Used: Luongo, Ingram, Petrasso, Robinson.
Goals: Mackie 31, Chery 86.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Kalas, Gibson, Friend,Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah, Ramirez (Forshaw 67), Downing (Ayala 84), Rhodes (Nugent 78).
Subs Not Used: De Laet, De Pena ,De Sart, Agazzi.
Goals: Rhodes 18, Ramirez 51, Gibson 57.
Att: 16,058. Ref: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).