A SEASON-DEFINING game against Hull City is nothing new to Middlesbrough.
Just over 12 months ago, a meeting of epic importance between the two coastal rivals went the way of the Teessiders at the Riverside Stadium with a last-gasp goal from David Nugent giving Boro the definitive edge in their quest for automatic promotion.
This time around, Boro’s need is just as pressing with the need to get three points perhaps even more critical as they bid to breathe much-needed life into their ebbing survival bid.
It is something that does not need to be spelt out to someone who knows the Tigers well in former assistant-manager Steve Agnew, seeking to preside over Boro’s first league win since December 17 – while you have to go back to August 21 for their last away-day victory.
Pulling no punches, Agnew said: “We need to win the game. It is a big, big game and we need three points.
“I am quietly confident and so are the players. We’ve had a chat and we will be fully focused.
“It is a big game, but that is the situation we are in.”
Agnew’s mention of quiet confidence is perhaps borne out of his knowledge of the Hull set-up and a number of their players and given the position that Boro are in, they are likely to grasp any inkling of hope that they can.
Agnew added: “I had a good relationship with a lot of them, I know the strengths, weaknesses and have a feel for the club. I had a good time there.
“It is a club where the crowd are vocal, they are on a good run of form, certainly at home, so it is going to be a really difficult game but again, with my knowledge, and I am not going to give too much away, I think that is an advantage.”
Agnew is also sage enough to realise that given the importance of Wednesday’s game to their season that a bold offensive approach is likely to form a big part of their game plan, with the precious currency of wins and not draws being what Boro require.
The Boro chief, who will assess the fitness of ex-Tigers loanee Gaston Ramirez in the morning, acknowledged: “The bottom line is we have to take risks at the top end of the field and they’re the messages we’ve been sending through.
“I see this is a challenge and I see progression, we just have not quite seen it when the players were on the field as much as I have liked.
“The players almost feel it is coming.”