Rudy Gestede was something of a forgotten man following Middlesbrough’s summer transfer spree.
But the giant Frenchman was his side’s saviour as Boro overcame Sheffield United 1-0 at the Riverside on Saturday.
Gestede headed home the only goal in a hard-fought victory over the Blades, earning Garry Monk his first win as Boro boss, and he was thrilled with his part in proceedings.
“I know, as a striker, I have to do the hard work, but I also have to score,” said Gestede.
“If you feed us in the box, that’s where the goals will come from – it’s that simple.
“We had a few good crosses and a few chances to score more, one hit the post and we managed to get one in the net.”
On the match, the 28-year-old, who only started because of summer signing Martin Braithwaite’s injury, added: “We knew it was a team who have come from League One and would fight for every ball to nick something from the game.
“In the first half, we were very good and we found the right balance.
“The intensity was a bit lower in the second but we still finished with three points and that’s the most important thing.”
Boro looked comfortable for most of the contest, however there was an element of fortune about the result after United defender Jack O’Connell’s header, which got a helpful deflection off Boro defender Dael Fry, was controversially ruled out for offside in stoppage-time.
Despite playing three strikers in a 4-3-3 formation, it was Boro’s discipline and defensive solidity that got them over the line.
The winner came in the 20th minute when Patrick Bamford’s lofted pass was weakly headed back towards United’s goal by defender Chris Basham.
Gestede smelt his opportunity and threw himself towards the ball, which he looped over goalkeeper Jamal Blackman with a brave diving header.
Gestede almost added a second when he nodded Cyrus Christie’s cross onto the post, however the hosts struggled to re-find their rhythm after the break.
Blades manager Chris Wilder bemoaned a “very, very poor decision” after their late ‘leveller’ was chalked off.
“He started off in an offside position but moved back into an onside position and then impeded their centre-half from heading the ball.
“Are we going to just let their centre-half head it clear in the last minute? “You just can’t get those decisions wrong.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Christie, Fry, Gibson, Friend, Howson, Clayton, Forshaw (Leadbitter 84), Bamford, Assombalonga (Fletcher 79), Gestede (Baker 68). Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Da Silva, Roberts, Traore. Booked: Friend. Goal: Gestede 20.
Sheffield Utd: Blackman, Basham, Stearman, O’Connell, Freeman (Brooks 79), Coutts, Carruthers (Duffy 57), Fleck, Stevens, Sharp (Evans 68), Clarke. Subs not used: Lundstram, Wright, Lafferty, Eastwood. Booked: Stevens
Att: 26,876. Ref: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).