Boss Garry Monk expects a tough test for his Middlesbrough side when QPR visit the Riverside Stadium tomorrow.
Boro sit in ninth place in the Sky Bet Championship after picking up four points in successive away games, winning 3-0 at Bolton and drawing 0-0 at Aston Villa.
Back on home turf, Monk has readied his men for a battle against a QPR side who are level on points with Boro, behind only on goal difference.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Ian Holloway,” said Monk. “He’s an experienced manager and whenever you come up against one of his teams it’s difficult.
“His sides are always versatile and unpredictable. We have to be ready for anything – preparation is everything – but the main focus is on us and hopefully we can come away with the right result.”
Asked about Boro’s improvements, the former Leeds boss added: “We’re growing, and we’re seeing improvements from all the players.
“That comes down to the hard work that we’re putting in.
But there’s still a long way to go to where we want to be and what we can achieve.
“Tuesday was a really good marker for the players.
“The feeling after was that they’d gone through it together and come out the other side.”
Boro have managed seven points from their first three home games, without a goal conceded, with Monk saying: “We want to return to the Riverside and continue making it a tough place for teams to come. That’s vitally important.
“We have a lot of options, even if we don’t have the biggest squad.
“That shows that we had a good summer of recruitment. Everyone will be play a part, and everyone has to be ready.”
Striker Martin Braithwaite is closing in on a return.
Braithwaite is back in training after a hamstring problem, but tomorrow is likely to come too soon.
Monk revealed: “He’ll rejoin the group full-time next week.”
Former Aston Villa striker Rudy Gestede has had two operations to relieve bleeding in a dead leg.
Monk told mfc.co.uk: “Now they’re able to close up the wound they had to make and it’s just about the healing process. We’re not sure on a timescale, but we’re hoping its quick.
“It has been a quite rare one. Dead-legs happen a lot in football, but this one re-bled a couple of time which was quite unusual.
“It can happen, but that leads to swelling and a minor op to relieve the pressure.
“He’s had that and is now out of hospital. From here it’s all about recovery.”
Meanwhile, Monk must do without Adama Traore for three games after the FA rejected Boro’s appeal against his midweek red card at Aston Villa.
He misses out against QPR, Villa (Carabao Cup), and Fulham.