One last push for Boro as Aitor Karanka’s men aim to end a six-year spell without Premier League soccer.
Automatic promotion to the Premier League slipped out of Middlesbrough’s grasp in the dying embers of the Championship season as they had to settle for fourth place.
There is, however, still plenty of hope for the fans and if Boro can reproduce the same performances against the other playoff candidates from earlier in the campaign, Karanka’s players will be in the top-flight next season.
Against Brentford and Norwich, Boro won 4-0 at home and 1-0 away, however, both away trips proved a nervy 90 minutes and the defence put everything on the line to try and preserve a clean sheet. A 4-1 home win against Ipswich in March made up for the lacklustre winter display at Portman Road, where Mick McCarthy’s men beat Boro 2-0 to go top.
On aggregate against their fellow Wembley-bound hopefuls they won 5-0 twice and 4-3. A well-drilled Boro side will be the one team that East Anglican sides will look to avoid in the final.
Karanka has brought optimism and hope to the fans and there hasn’t been this sort of feel around the Riverside since the Steve McClaren era. Under his guidance the club achieved their highest ever Premier League position, won their first trophy in their 128-year existence and competed in Europe.
Coming so close to automatic promotion, plus securing Boro’s highest finish since they entered the league in 2009 has enhanced Karanka’s reputation both within the club and worldwide.
Since that sunny day at Upton Park back in 2009, when relegation from the top tier was confirmed, there have been hardly any ups or downs for Boro, just mediocre performances matched with a massive drop in matchday attendances.
A couple of seasons ago Tony Mowbray’s men were top of the league at Christmas and were favourites to go up. This was followed by a four-month period where just three wins saw them plummet to a bottom half finish.
This season has been as entertaining as the last five combined for the Boro faithful. An away trip to Anfield, where the spirited Championship side only lost on penalties, was the start of the fans belief and optimism. Then came another Premier League away day in the FA Cup third round as Boro went on to beat champions Manchester City in their own back yard.