The 2-0 defeat at the Riverside to West Ham United three weeks ago had everyone on the typical Middlesbrough bandwagon. Another defeat to a team that are in and around ‘Boro in the Championship table, to go with a loss to Southampton back in October.
Yes you may argue Middlesbrough beat teams such as Crystal Palace, and Derby County were defeated when they where in and around the play-offs, but against teams that are serious main stayers at the top, the Boro have floundered so far this season.
At Southampton Tony Mowbray’s side were outclassed and at home to the Hammers they looked frightened, as a men against boys comparison was set.
Flash forward three weeks later and didn’t Boro learn from these defeats?
Everyone had Cardiff City down for another undefeated game against the Reds, and it looked like it would happen when Aron Gunnarsson put the Bluebirds 2-1 up at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday.
However Mowbray’s men look to be made of sterner stuff as their character grows. A sensational second half performance on Saturday saw Boro fight back to win 3-2 and take all three points, to move three points off top spot. They sit two off second and two clear of fourth, with fourth place currently occupied by Nick Barmby’s in-form Hull City, who the Reds host on Boxing Day in what will be another stern test against fellow promotion hopefuls.
Now can we start to believe please?
“No!” exclaimed Tony Mowbray, and who are we to not listen to the ‘Boro gaffer?
The side’s character has passed tests in recent weeks with two 1-0 victories, which is what champions do when they don’t look on their game. Boro have won by that margin five times already this season.
There will be harder tests to come next year with away trips to Blackpool, Birmingham and West Ham in the offing, plus the return fixure against the Saints at home, which will be the second to last league match of the campaign.
Until the team passes those tests, I will not count on promotion for Middlesbrough just yet this season.
Written by Scott Easby, We Are Going Up’s Middlesbrough blogger
Scott tweets at @SEasby12