Middlesbrough produced a much-improved performance on Tuesday night as they managed to pick up all three points by beating Sheffield United 2-0 under the lights.
Neil Warnock’s side headed into the game under real pressure to start turning around their campaign after they were handed a second successive defeat by Reading on Saturday.
Boro looked a side that were without much of an attacking blueprint or with little idea about how they could secure all three points at Reading.
However, against Sheffield United, it was a completely different story and Middlesbrough performed much more like a Warnock side.
The three points come at the right time for Middlesbrough and they will be much welcome after they had managed to win just two of their opening nine Championship fixtures.
It will be vital now that Middlesbrough use both the performance and the result as a major springboard to transform the direction that their season is heading in.
Securing a win against an improving Sheffield United side who had been building confidence over recent games in a strong start to their attempt to turn around their campaign.
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Here, we take a look at THREE things we clearly learnt about Middlesbrough following their Sheffield United victory…
Duncan Watmore underlines his importance to Warnock
It had been a difficult start to the season for Duncan Watmore with the attacker having found it difficult to convince Warnock that he could be a regular starter for Boro in the Championship this season.
Watmore had managed to start just two of Middlesbrough’s opening nine Championship games.
Therefore, despite him having been their top scorer last season with nine league goals, it has appeared that he has dropped down the pecking order somewhat at the start of the campaign.
The arrivals of Uche Ikpeazu and Andraz Sporar in the summer were always going to make it difficult for Watmore to keep his place in the side, but the attacker has now reminded Warnock why he has to be starting for Middlesbrough.
The energy levels that Watmore brought to the side upfront helped them be a continuous threat to Sheffield United’s defence.
The ability that he has to press from the front makes a huge difference for Boro and is something that their other options upfront do not bring to the table as well.
While Watmore also took his goal very well as well and that shows that if he plays he will be able to score goals on a fairly regular basis.
You would imagine he is more than back in favour after this display.
Quiz: Have Middlesbrough ever been involved in these 18 scenarios?
Warnock still has the ability to get the best from this squad
Ahead of the game perhaps for the first time since he took over Middlesbrough questions were starting to be asked of Warnock’s capabilities to lead Boro to where they ultimately want to be this season.
In truth, it was probably foolish to ever question a manager with the level of experience that Warnock has in the Championship.
That is not to say that criticism has not been warranted especially considering the way that Boro were comfortably beaten at Reading on Saturday.
Against Sheffield United though, Warnock got his tactics spot on and Middlesbrough played with the aggression and front foot approach that typifies a team under the experienced manager when they are at their very best.
This was a performance where the players showed that they are fully behind Warnock and that they have the ability to carry out what he wants them to do.
It is now all about finding that level of display on a consistent basis for Boro now.
Sol Bamba was the rock at the back Middlesbrough needed
A side that earns promotion under Warnock is often built on the foundations of a rock-solid defence where clean sheets are the order of the day to help his side edge tight matches.
Therefore, it would have been a real concern ahead of the game that Middlesbrough had kept just two clean sheets in their opening nine Championship matches.
What Middlesbrough needed was a defender to step into the side and lead from the back and try and inspire a resilience from the rest of the defence.
Against Sheffield United, Sol Bamba certainly provided that and he was everywhere and winning the vast majority of things that came towards him to help Middlesbrough produce a performance that frustrated the Blades’ attacking players.
In total, Bamba managed to make eight clearances, block two shots and also won all five aerial duels that he contested.
It was a performance that rolled back the years for the defender and it is harder to think of any player who deserved that kind of display more than him after the last few years.
If Bamba keeps performing like this then Middlesbrough will have a real chance of climbing the Championship table very quickly.