Tony Pulis makes surprise tactical admission as Boro boss discusses Lewis Wing and Derby County pressure after Reading win
Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis admitted he only worked on his side's 'shape and pattern' the day before Boro's 2-1 victory over Reading. - after keeping Lewis Wing's return under wraps.
The 23-year-old midfielder came back into the side for the first time since April 2 after recovering from a hernia operation earlier this month.
Wing produced a standout display against the Royals to help keep alive Boro's dwindling play-off hopes, scoring the equaliser as the Teessiders recovered from a goal down at the Riverside.
Pulis admitted after the game he intended to replace Wing before the 90 minutes was up, before deciding the midfielder was too important to withdraw.
"I kept Wingy on, I should have brought him off," said Pulis. "I apologised to him because he was tired, he was really sucking, but I wanted him to get that 90 minutes.
"He's been one of the outstanding players in the Championship as a find this year.
"His attitude, his approach, his willingness to want to play is first class."
Wing's inclusion came as a big surprise when the team sheet was released at 3pm and Pulis admitted it was a deliberate ploy to keep the news secret.
"I've tried to keep it as quiet as I could (that he'd be playing). We could have got him involved a game earlier but I was concerned about him coming back and pulling a muscle or something.
"I always had this game in mind but I wanted to keep it as quiet as I could.
"Yesterday, I named the team, that was the first time the players worked on the shape and the pattern we wanted to play. We knew they'd play a diamond, we wanted to get it wide and overload them down one side. That was the first Wingy knew about it."
The result means Boro still have a chance of making the play-offs but will need to rely on other results to secure a top-six spot.
Pulis' side are level on points with Derby, who also have a game in hand on the Teessiders, ahead of Boro's final game of the season at Rotherham next weekend.
Derby face a trip to Swansea on Wednesday night ahead of a home clash with West Brom on the final day of the season.
"We can't do anything about Derby," added Pulis.
"They've got three points against Bristol, now they play Swansea, what we've done is kept the pressure on.
"If we hadn't have won today that would have been it. We've won so there's pressure on them going into the next two games. Football is a funny old game."