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Michael Carrick feels Middlesbrough are hitting form at the right time

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 1 Apr 2024

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Michael Carrick feels his Middlesbrough side are peaking at the ideal time after their 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday took them to within six points of the Championship’s play-off places.

The Teessiders’ season looked to effectively be over when they dropped to 14th after last month’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke, but they have embarked on a six-game unbeaten run that has reignited their promotion hopes.

They have closed to within six points of sixth-placed Norwich thanks to a comfortable victory over the Owls, which was achieved through a Michael Ihiekwe own goal and a deflected second-half strike from Isaiah Jones.

Carrick said: “There comes a point towards the end of the season where we are where we are, and you understand that and grasp it. You can then try to use that as a motivation.

“Five or six games ago, it was a case of getting back to basics and being solid and hard to beat. It was about trying to win games again, and we’ve done that.

“Southampton (a 1-1 draw on Good Friday) was a move in the right direction in terms of the football we want to play, and then today we’ve added to that again.

“I thought we looked a lot like the team we want to look like today, and I was pleased with that.

“Of course, we’ve got to keep trying to win games and see where that takes us, but the end of the season is getting closer now and while there’ll be swings week to week, I think you’ve got to embrace that at this stage.”

Carrick was especially pleased with his side’s defensive display despite the absence of a host of senior players that resulted in Jonny Howson having to play centre-back for the second game in a row.

Boro have conceded just one goal in their last five matches, with their improved defensive performances having played a major role in their unbeaten run.

Carrick said: “I think we’ve defended well as a team and pressed well. Different scenarios, different little tweaks of personnel, but I keep talking about the wavelengths and connections.

“Jonny has just shown his experience and his class. He’s stepped in and understood it straight away.

“I know he’s played there a few times, but I think he’s quite enjoyed that bit of a fresh challenge. You could see that, and I thought he was terrific again.”

Sheffield Wednesday boss Danny Rohl pulled no punches as he bemoaned his side’s lacklustre showing as they slipped to 23rd in the table with just six more games to play.

“The supporters are high level, Premier League level, but from us, there was nothing,” Rohl said.

“I have showed my players one clip immediately after the game, and that clip showed everything that was wrong. If you lose the ball, then you have to work. If you play forward, then you have to push out. If the opponent moves right, you have to move right, but we were not moving right.

“We can speak about the shape, the players, everything, but it was simply not good enough. It was a big, big disappointment.

“If you are not doing the basics right, that is really disappointing.

“If you do not have the right attitude, it will be hard, and if the attitude is not right, it will be hard to take anything over the next six games.”

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