Aitor Karanka took his side to Griffin Park last night knowing a victory would see them pull eight points clear of 3rd placed Hull City, with the Tigers playing tonight.
The Riverside outfit got their wish, as a mistake by Brentford goalkeeper David Button allowed centre half Dani Ayala to squeeze the ball home in the 61st minute.
Brentford put up a good performance though, and were denied on numerous occasions by the outstanding goalkeeping performance of Dimi Konstantopolous.
A string of late corners; Brentford had 11 during the game, proved in vain, as Boro held out to extend their lead at the top. With Derby dropping points at home to Reading, Boro now sit six points clear of second place and also hold a crucial game in hand.
Here, I detail THREE things we have learnt from last night’s game….
1) Boro handled the pressure
After the FA Cup loss at the weekend, it would have been easy for the Boro players last night to go conservative and play out for the 0-0 draw, take their point back up North, and go again at the weekend.
They didn’t though, and showed just about enough to warrant winning the game. While Brentford had more possession, Karanka’s men created enough to walk away with the win.
A late barrage of corners and attacking play saw them come under serious pressure, but Boro once again showed their defensive resilience to see it out for yet another clean sheet.
2) Tarkowski and Judge – men in demand
It was easy to see last night why many have touted Alan Judge and James Tarkowski as potential additions to their squad as both delivered excellent performances.
Tarkowski marshalled a dangerous Boro attack very well, and will have been absolutely gutted to have seen a goalkeeping error undo the work that went in to keeping a clean sheet.
Judge impressed again, testing the goalkeeper on a couple of occasions and showing his usual array of trickery and creativeness.
3) Champions elect?
It can often be used as cliché, but these really are the sort of victories which win you titles.
Coming away from a tricky midweek away tie, not playing at your absolute best, and scoring a scruffy goal to hold out for a 1-0 victory, is often seen as what you need to do at times over the course of a season to be successful.
Alex Ferguson drilled the same mentality into his successful Man United teams over the years, and judging on last night, Aitor Karanka may well have instilled a similar mentality in his players.