TONY Mowbray feels that successive draws against Premier League high fliers Sunderland proves his side could compete in the top flight.
Boro resume their Championship promotion charge at Ipswich Town tomorrow afternoon just three days after their FA Cup exit to the Black Cats.
A pair of 1-1 draws saw the fourth-round tie enter extra-time at the Riverside on Wednesday night and, in the end, only a 113th-minute Stephane Sessegnon strike separated the teams.
Ahead of the trip to East Anglia, Mowbray said: “I genuinely feel that is the level of performance we have found for most of the season.
“The good thing for our team, and it was never a doubt in my mind, is that if we ever did find a way of getting out of this league then we could compete in the Premier League.
“As Swansea and Norwich have shown this year, the Championship teams that have gone up are doing okay.
“It shows you can compete and I would like to think we have shown that over the two games.”
Mowbray, though, accepts that the second tier presents a different challenge.
Indeed, Boro are without a league win since Boxing Day and their latest effort was a disappointing goalless draw at home to Crystal Palace last weekend.
Mowbray went on: “If you were there last Saturday the level of performance was a lot lower.
“The Championship is a totally different game.
“The intensity is greater and it’s week in, week out with a game every three or four days.
“It is a lot different from playing Sunderland.
“There are no easy matches.”
Meanwhile, 19-year-old striker Curtis Main looks set to keep his place at Portman Road after a man-of-the-match display against the Black Cats.
“He’s a confident boy and he’s fast, he’s strong and he’s got two good feet,” said Mowbray.
“The bottom line is if he wasn’t ready to play, he wouldn’t have played.
“He’s scored something like 19 in 15 games for the development team.
“He deserves an opportunity and because of our injury situation his opportunity was against Sunderland and he did okay, he didn’t do himself any harm.
“Sometimes it’s about trying to find the right environment and sometimes opportunity is what young players need.”