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Tony Pulis must give Middlesbrough the steel to beat Championship heavy hitters

Photo: Getty Images


Tony Pulis must give Middlesbrough the steel to beat Championship heavy hitters

Boro are sixth in the Championship with a tough season run-in.

As we leave the Easter weekend behind the Championship heavyweights are limbering up to slug it out for promotion.

Wolves have blitzed through the Championship like Anthony Joshua. Cardiff have taken Dillian Whyte approach in scrappily battling their way to the top end of the rankings.

Much like David Price, Leeds United stopped all comers early on before plummeting down the table following some bad knockout losses.

Boro? At the minute they resemble a Derek Chisora, comfortably dealing with low-level opposition but falling short every time they step up in class.

This is not a new problem. Boro have taken only six points from 33 against the sides in the top eight.

Garry Monk had managed to keep the club in touch with the play-off pack but failure to pick up points against promotion rivals (he lost key games against the likes of Cardiff, Derby and Wolves) cost him his job.

It was hoped that the appointment of Tony Pulis would give Boro the steel required to bite down on the gum shield and pick up the points in bruising battles against their rivals.


However, to date, Pulis has yet to find a formula for fighting back in these fixtures.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

The recent run of 14 points from a possible 18 that propelled Boro into the play-offs came from a run of fixtures against sides mired in mid-table or lower – just the kind of games that Monk used to pick up points from.

Prior to that run, Boro endured disappointing defeats against rivals Aston Villa and Cardiff.

Since then, Boro started well on Good Friday before falling apart at home to Wolves, another of the Championships top teams, after conceding and couldn’t salvage anything from the game despite the opposition being reduced to nine men.

Boro have the resources to put this problem right. The squad is packed with players who can pick up points in key games, many of them being part of the Aitor Karanka squad that took four points off rivals Burnley and Brighton to secure promotion.

In the season prior to that, defeats at Bournemouth and Watford cost Boro an automatic spot so we all know how crucial these fixtures can be. Upcoming bouts against fellow contenders Sheffield United, Bristol City, Derby and Millwall may well decide what division Boro are playing in next season.

Only managing a draw at basement boys Burton on Easter Monday means that it will now be difficult to hold onto the coveted 6th place and a final play-off spot.

Pulis has to learn how to land the knockout blow in these games otherwise Boro will be beaten to the promotion punch and left lamenting a season in which they could have been contenders.

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