MIDDLESBROUGH boss Aitor Karanka believes progress is being made in all areas – with saturday’s impressive 2-0 win at Brighton giving hope for next season.
Second-half goals from Albert Adomah and on-loan Sunderland striker Danny Graham extended the losing streak for Oscar Garcia’s Seagulls, who missed a penalty when trailing 1-0, and left them four points adrift of a Sky Bet Championship play-off spot.
Leonardo Ulloa’s badly hit spot-kick sailed over the bar into the home fans to cap a miserable day for the hosts, who have now won only one of their last six home games in all competitions.
Delighted Karanka said: “It’s my first season in English football and I’m very happy because everything is new to me.
“The potential is such that we have to work together to do the best. We have a good attitude and will be working to improve the squad in time.”
Karanka refused to single this out as one of Boro’s best performances, saying: “We have played a lot of games in recent times and played well but haven’t won.
“We created some good chances in the first half and didn’t let Brighton play.
“We are playing in a very high tempo and deserved a slice of luck when Brighton missed their penalty.”
This was Boro’s 12th clean sheet in their last 19 games and Karanka felt his men were fully deserving of their first win in seven away games.
He said: “I am very happy that we won, playing against a very good team. We had a lot of the ball and we knew we needed to go for the game.”
Adomah`s 11th goal of the season made the breakthrough on 66 minutes.
A mistake by Albion captain Gordon Greer allowed Graham to play a pass into the danger zone and Adomah had the easiest of tasks to steer the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
Graham doubled Boro`s lead, and in the process sealed the win, four minutes from time with a low shot from 12 yards following a pass by Grant Leadbitter.
Brighton head coach Garcia moaned: “We’re making mistakes at the back and we are being punished. The problem is we are not punishing the opposition ourselves and now these are the kind of things that are making the difference.”
Garcia refused to criticise Ulloa for his spot-kick blunder, the Argentinian having stepped up with regular penalty-taker David Lopez having been substituted.
“It’s a personal decision and you have to feel confident enough,” the Spaniard said.
“It was a poor penalty but we cant blame Leo – he’s scored crucial goals for us.”
BRIGHTON: Kuszczak, Saltor, Greer, Upson, Ward, Ince (March 73), Andrews, Lopez (LuaLua 59), Buckley (Forster-Caskey 33), Ulloa, Lingard. Subs not used: Dunk, David Rodriguez, Calderon, Ankergren
MIDDLESBROUGH: Konstantopoulos, Varga, Omeruo (Chalobah 79), Gibson, Friend, L Williams, Leadbitter, Whitehead, Adomah (Ledesma 87), Tomlin (Butterfield 60), Graham. Subs not used: Morris, Steele, Kamara, Atkinson. Booked: Whitehead. Goals: Adomah 65, Graham 86.
Att: 27,486. Ref: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).