Cup victory can lift Middlesbrough’s league form – Friend

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MARAUDING left back George Friend is hoping the derby boost will give Middlesbrough even more league momentum, writes Mark Thompson.

Boro have won their last four league games and are on a high after beating rivals Sunderland in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday.

Friend has played a key role in the Teessiders’ early season success and he is determined to keep the team’s good run going as the games keep on coming thick and fast.

The squad travel to Charlton Athletic on Saturday with a chance to go joint top of the league.

Friend, who has made it to the quarter-final stage of the league cup for the first time in his career, said: “Everyone has been brilliant throughout the whole team.

“We have had a lot of games on Saturdays and Tuesdays for god knows how many weeks, so credit to us really.

“The win’s given us more momentum into Saturday. We keep on winning. That’s five wins on the bounce so its brilliant.

“It was a cup game, but it’s more than a cup game when its a derby”.

Friend has been impressed with Boro’s travelling supporters, who never stopped singing on Tuesday night and often sell out away ends around the country.

“You can hear the fans the whole time,” said the 25-year-old.

“Hearing them gives you that boost.”

But it’s not like Friend needs much encouragement as he has become a fans favourite already with his all-action displays.

His no-nonsense defending and penchant for opening his stride and launching attacks down the left wing have impressed fans.

He has made the position his own after Joe Bennett left for Aston Villa and the towering Devon man was again a constant menace against Sunderland.

Friend finished the match at the Stadium of Light in central defence after Seb Hines was taken off with a knee injury and, together with Andre Bikey, saw off a late onslaught by the Black Cats.

“I like to get forward and make a few chances and moving into the centre just gave me a rest”, he joked.

He added: “It was my first taste of North-East derbies, so it was a good day for me in that sense.”

Friend said he didn’t mind who was pulled out of the bag for Boro’s first quarter-final appearance in the competition since 2005.

But he was hoping Boro would break a jinx that has seen the club play 12 away ties straight in the cup.