Clayton urges Middlesbrough to home in on real signs of progress

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ADAM Clayton believes Middlesbrough “could be hard to stop” if they bring their away form back to the Riverside.

After frustrating home defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Reading, Boro have responded with back-to-back wins at Huddersfield and Cardiff.

Tuesday’s 1-0 victory in Wales, which looks set to end the reign of Bluebirds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (with an announcement of his dismissal expected today), moved Boro to within one point of the Sky Bet Championship’s top six and just four off the summit.

That makes a third success in a row, at home to newly-promoted Brentford this Saturday, vital if Boro are to be considered contenders rather than pretenders.

Summer signing Clayton, at the heart of the new team built by Aitor Karanka, feels that momentum will be a key factor.

“We’ll go into it (Brentford) full of confidence and hopefully we’ll get that win at home,” said the Manchester-born midfielder, who joined Boro from Huddersfield last month for a rumoured £1.5million.

“The gaffer has got all his business done and this is his squad.

“The team spirit and togetherness is there for everyone to see. We’ve come away from home two games in a row and done what we’ve needed to do. If we can we get a bit of momentum going, we could be hard to stop.

“But the Championship is the Championship, you have to make things happen and we did (on Tuesday night).”

Kike was the early match-winner, with Albert Adomah the supplier – as ordered by the boss. “The gaffer said before the game ‘get the ball out to Alb, he’ll get the cross in and Kike will score’,” laughed Clayton. “So that goal was down to the gaffer.”

Boro were superb at the Cardiff City Stadium – from Kike up front to keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos

And, in between, Clayton has forged an excellent midfield partnership with skipper Grant Leadbitter, the former Sunderland man.

But the 25-year-old says the presence of ex-Black Cat Dean Whitehead breathing down their necks will make them play even better.

“With someone like Dean Whitehead behind you, you know you have to perform,” Clayton told BBC Tees.

“He’s a player with Premier League capabilities who is ready to come in.

“There are three very good players who can play in that midfield position, so whichever ones the gaffer picks you know you have to perform.

“Whatever the combination you have to play well and get the win.”

H Boro fear that summer signing Damia Abella could be ruled out for a lengthy period after picking up a knee injury at Cardiff. Boss Aitor Karanka said of the 32-year-old: “I don’t think it’s going to be good news about him.”

“We need to wait for the results of a scan, but it’s very bad for me because he’s an amazing lad and a good player who is helping us.”