Football League World
·29 September 2023
Football League World
·29 September 2023
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Middlesbrough recorded their first league win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Southampton at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday.
It had been a tough start to the season for Michael Carrick's side, but they deservedly picked up their first three points of the campaign with an impressive victory over the Saints, with Riley McGree's strike and Jonny Howson's penalty turning the game around after Adam Armstrong had given the visitors the lead.
They followed it up with a comfortable 2-0 win over Bradford City at the University of Bradford Stadium in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night, with goals from Emmanuel Latte Lath and Morgan Rogers securing their progression to the fourth round.
Boro make the trip to face 16th-placed Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday, and as the countdown to kick off continues, we rounded up all the latest news from the Riverside Stadium.
Boro are sweating over the fitness of defenders Rav van den Berg and Alex Bangura and striker Marcus Forss ahead of the game against the Hornets.
Carrick admits he is unsure whether van den Berg will be available after he missed the game against the Bantams in midweek with a hamstring injury, but the 42-year-old is hopeful that Forss could return after three games out with a thigh injury.
"Rav is a little bit touch and go, we'll have to wait and see. He had a bit of a neural problem at the top of his hamstring so we'll have to see how he goes. Marcus, we're hopeful that he can be back around the group," Carrick told The Northern Echo.
Bangura sustained a hamstring injury on his debut against Blackburn Rovers, and Carrick revealed that the 24-year-old could be out for an extended period.
"It’s frustrating for him, no denying that. But he’s a good lad and he’s got his head down and he’s working hard. His career at Middlesbrough isn’t going to be defined by one or two weeks now, it’s a process and so we have a responsibility to make sure that he’s right to perform," Carrick said.
"We look after him and he’s fine. He’s training hard to get fit, as you might expect, and there is plenty of time for him to improve, develop and become a big part of the group.
"Helping Alex in this period is a big part of it. It’s easy when things are going well and you have success and headlines from that. But actually it’s away from that when it have the biggest impact.
"The group are so good and important in times like this, especially the leadership group. They all look after each other, and I think all the boys would say they feel that, especially the boys that have just come in.
"That’s no more so when you might feel you’re out of it, like Alex could. Here, the group make sure they still part of it even if you have to sit out for a week or two."
Only three of Boro's starting line-up against Southampton on Saturday were new signings, and pundit Adrian Clarke believes Carrick's decision to play many of last season's squad was crucial in their victory over the Saints.
"Michael Carrick went back to the old school. That’s basically what he did here. Only three of his starting XI were new signings, so the bulk of this group were with him last year, a lot of whom have been on the bench in the early weeks," Clarke said on the What the EFL?! podcast.
"Sometimes there is that temptation with new signings to put them straight in, but when they’re young and inexperienced, like the bulk of Boro’s new faces, it’s probably unfair to stick them straight in.
"I’d say it’s counter productive; drip feed it, give them a little bit of experience but have some continuity from last season. I think that’s the realisation they had this week, that was what was behind their thinking in the starting XI, and it paid off, it really did.
"Isaiah Jones was great, Riley McGree - who I was surprised to see on the bench in the first few weeks - was excellent and scored.
"Pressing, working really hard to win the ball back, and driving forward with pace and penetration. Well done to Middlesbrough, they really discovered themselves."
Boro will face League One side Exeter City at St James' Park in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
Carrick says that it will not be an easy game against the Grecians, who knocked out Premier League side Luton Town to seal their progression to the fourth round.
"We're delighted to be in the draw. That's all you can do, put yourself in the draw and see what's thrown at us," Carrick told The Northern Echo.
"The draw is the draw, I don't want to say it's a good draw or not a good draw. They've proved what they're capable of, beating Luton.
"It will be a long journey for the supporters and a few days before Plymouth, which is challenging in itself but for us it's a good game, we're in the next round of the cup. We'll look forward to it."