Chris Wilder: Middlesbrough in decent nick going into final game

Matt Crooks scored twice in a 3-1 win against Stoke.

By Press Association Published: 30 April 2022 - 5.57pm

Middlesbrough manager Chris Wilder believes his side’s 3-1 win against Stoke puts them in “decent nick” going into their final game.

Lewis Baker scored a first-half own goal and Crooks struck in each half before Nick Powell scored a stoppage-time consolation for the Potters.

The result keeps Middlesbrough’s Sky Bet Championship play-off hopes alive as the race to secure a spot comes down to the final day of the season.

Wilder praised his side’s performance and was pleased with their “hard-to-beat” attitude.

He said: “We wanted a Middlesbrough home performance and I thought we had that. I thought out of possession we were really good, we were structured, we were hard to beat, hard to break down.

“Stoke have got some talented boys, they are third in the form table, a huge club in the division, everybody understands that.

“If you look at the team sheet and players that weren’t available, might have been missing through injury, even then they are bringing on Steven Fletcher and Nick Powell, they are bringing on some really good players.”

Middlesbrough travel to Preston on the final day in a must-win game and can currently catch Luton or Sheffield United to secure a play-off place, but Wilder stressed the permutations are uncontrollable.

“You can’t control stuff like that, I don’t think it’s any good getting caught up in trying to work out who does what or who doesn’t, the psychology aspect of it.

“There’s a thousand things you can chuck into the mix. The one thing you can control is your performance and I thought it was a great performance in terms of control of the game, which we did.

“I thought the control we had, the details in terms of our play was really good and I was delighted with the level of performance really.

“I would have taken a scrappy 1-0 win, I think we all would have, but I think the way we played can hold us in good stead that we go into next week in decent nick.”

The result sees Stoke drop to 13th in the table and assistant manager Dean Holden believed his side were “off the pace” in the first half of the game.

“First half we were way off the pace, we started well in terms of possession and control of the game but without any real edge to it,” he said.

“We knew where their vulnerabilities lay and where we could potentially hurt them, but we didn’t really see that in terms of the runs we made in behind and in terms of the decisiveness in our play really, but the first goal is obviously a big goal in any game.”

Holden added that his side had a couple of moments in the match and he hopes the Potters can provide a response in their final game against Coventry next weekend.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re responding and finishing the season as high as we can next week, we owe it to everyone,” Holden added.

“We’ve had nearly a thousand supporters here today, so we owe it to everybody concerned that we go out and show some kind of a reaction to that.

“What I would say is that we’ve had four big chances in the game, Middlesbrough haven’t created a great deal really. Like I say, we conceded from two set pieces and a deflected goal.

“We’ve had four big moments and we’ve just not been as clinical today.”

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