MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray insists his young side will have to get better – despite securing a second successive Championship win on Saturday.
Seb Hines and Merouane Zemmama did the damage in a 2-1 home victory against Crystal Palace, following up the midweek success against Burnley.
“The table looks brighter, but let’s not pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” said Mowbray.
“Blackpool got six (against Ipswich) and there are some good teams in this league.
“It’s going to be a long season for us and yet hopefully an enjoyable one.
“Hopefully the fans can see the young players in our side are giving everything for the team.
“I’m proud of them because if you look at the team we had on the pitch at the end, with Luke Williams, Adam Reach, Curtis Main, Richard Smallwood, Seb Hines, Rhys Williams and Jason Steele, it’s a team of boys.
“So great credit to them. It bodes well for the future and we’ll get stronger.”
Boro should have gone ahead early on as Justin Hoyte crossed to the near post and Faris Haroun put a close-range header against the post.
Then, on 10 minutes, a neat ball from Zemmama found on-loan debutant Ishmael Miller, but, as he shaped to shoot, Aaron Martin put in a blocking tackle.
Teenager Reach had a stinging 30-yard effort was pushed over by Julian Speroni.
And Boro went ahead from the resulting corner as Grant Leadbitter’s cross dropped into a crowd for Miller to glance it against a defender before Hines bundled home.
Boro looked in control when they got a second on 52 minutes as Zemmama squeezed a low 20-yard free-kick around the edge of the wall and inside the near post.
But Palace quickly pulled one back as Josh McEachran brought down Jermaine Easter to give away a penalty that Palace’s former Hartlepool man lashed home.
Palace almost levelled on 71 minutes as first Kwesi Appiah then fellow substitute Andre Moritz had good efforts saved by Jason Steele.
Mowbray added: “Going in at half-time, we were disappointed it was only one after we peppered their goal.
“We gifted them a goal with the penalty and that gave the the impetus to push on.
“When teams are chasing a goal, they can gamble and they have some pretty good counter-attacking footballers, so they’re always going to be a threat.
“After the penalty, they went for it.
“Someone like Mustapha Carayol off the bench would have given is an option to counter-attack and that’s why you have a squad. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, we got the points, we held on at the end, but we could have been out of sight.”
While Jonathan Woodgate was rested, Carayol is close to full fitness, while Kevin Thomson could return at Millwall this Saturday lunchtime.
Mowbray said: “Woody was touch and go, but we decided against playing him.
“He hasn’t got an injury as such, but we have to pick and choose the games Woody plays.”
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele, Friend, Hines, R Williams, Hoyte, Reach, McEachran (Smallwood 78), Leadbitter, Zemmama, Haroun (Main 78), Miller (L Williams 67). Subs not used: Leutwiler, McManus, Ledesma, Arca. Goals: Hines 41, Zemmama 52
CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni, Ramage, Martin, Blake, Parr, Dikgacoi (Moritz 60), Garvan, Jedinak, Kossoko (Moxey 79), Zaha, Easter (Appiah 63). Subs not used: Price, Ward, Wilbraham, O’Keefe. Booked: Zaha, Martin. Goal: Easter 56 pen. Att: 15,494. Ref: David Coote