MIDDLESBROUGH boss Aitor Karanka revelled in the “best afternoon” of his managerial career after Middlesbrough toppled Sky Bet Championship leaders Derby County 2-0 at the Riverside today.
On-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford was the star of the show for Boro, opening the scoring in the fifth minute before winning the penalty that set up Grant Leadbitter’s second.
The second incident further hampered Derby, with Ryan Shotton shown a red card having been adjudged the last man.
That left Boro at the summit - albeit with Ipswich and Bournemouth having the chance to leapfrog them by winning in their respective 3pm kick-offs - and their manager extremely pleased.
Karanka, who served a touchline ban, said: “I think it’s the best afternoon of my career here.
“We played the best team in the league and are in a very good position in the table.
“It was a very good performance and I want to dedicate the victory to my staff because they are always with me.
“I could not be on the bench and they were brilliant once again.”
The big games come thick and fast for Middlesbrough, with a trip to promotion rivals Ipswich quickly on the horizon.
Karanka is fully aware expectations have been raised on Teesside, although he guarded against complacency.
He added: “I cannot manage the expectations outside the changing room. In the changing room, the expectations are the same.
“We are playing against teams that are around us in the coming weeks. Today was Derby, then we have Ipswich.
“We have four or five games now against teams towards the top of the table but it is important that we focus on each game. The next game is always the most important.”
Derby’s former Boro boss, Steve McClaren, said: “Our performance was not the usual standard; it was poor. We talked all week about how organised this Middlesbrough side is.
“Normally we are around 80% in pass completion but I think today the figure will be nearer 50.
“Credit to Middlesbrough. Once they scored the first goal, they got their tails up and deserved to win.”
McClaren is now hoping his side, who relinquished their spot at the summit, can bounce back.
He added: “This is the Championship. We have to do what we usually do: dust ourselves off, credit the opponent and perform better.
“Overall, it was a bad day. But the Championship is tough. Middlesbrough will be up there.
“I don’t mind losing, and you will in the Championship. But it’s how you react. We don’t even look in the league table in December. We want to be in the top six with 10 games to go.”