Why Middlesbrough captain George Friend isn't getting distracted by Leeds and Nottingham Forest fixtures

Middlesbrough captain George Friend made his first-team comeback against Luton.Middlesbrough captain George Friend made his first-team comeback against Luton.
Middlesbrough captain George Friend made his first-team comeback against Luton. | 2018 Getty Images
Captain George Friend says Middlesbrough can’t look too far ahead with potentially difficult fixtures just around the corner.

Boro haven’t won for seven league games following Saturday’s defeat to Luton and are now just six points above the Championship relegation zone.

The Teessiders face a trip to bottom of the table Barnsley next weekend in what could prove to be a pivotal clash.

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Jonathan Woodgate’s side will then come up against promotion contenders Leeds United and Nottingham Forest at the Riverside in the space of six days.

Yet Friend doesn’t necessarily believe it will be harder to pick up points in those fixtures, or that the Barnsley game carries greater importance because of them.

“I don’t think we can look at games and think like that,” said Friend following the Luton defeat. “I don’t think anyone thought about us going to Preston, West Brom, and we would beat them.

“We didn’t look at those and think we will lose those so we had better win the others. It doesn’t work like that. You have to perform consistently to a high standard. We didn’t today.

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“We have to make sure we do for the next 13 games. It is not about picking your games. You have to do it every game. I am disappointed. Frustrated. We need to move on.”

Friend was playing his first match since the start of November following a long injury lay-off.

The Boro skipper also admitted that Dael Fry’s thigh issue played a part in his selection.

“It feels good,” said Friend when asked about his injury after the match. “It’s more in the head right now because I am really disappointed with the result – it’s not what I wanted at the Riverside.

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“I wanted a clean sheet and it didn’t happen. I can look forward because it is another 90 minutes.

“Credit to the staff behind the scenes, the hard work and support they have given me is fantastic.

“Dael’s injury accelerated my involvement today. Once you are declared fit you have to be ready and I feel good.”