Middlesbrough chief Aitor Karanka admitted his side failed to hit the heights of the previous weekend after Grant Leadbitter’s penalty grabbed victory at promotion rivals Brentford.
Boro arrived in west London fresh from their shock FA Cup success at Premier League champions Manchester City, but they found last season’s League One runners-up a far trickier proposition.
However, spot-kick expert Leadbitter’s eighth penalty from eight attempts this season was the difference as Boro kept themselves very much in the Championship promotion mix.
“It was a very important win against a team who are playing for the same position as us,” said Karanka. “We played really well last Saturday against City so today wasn’t as good – but three points is the main thing for me.
“I thought after the City game it would be a difficult week, that maybe everyone would be more excited than normal, but the players worked very well. However, it’s good for me that we didn’t play as well as we can play, but we can still beat teams like Brentford.”
Boro made the breakthrough in the 44th minute when Ben Gibson launched the ball and Bees defender Harlee Dean let the ball sail over him, unaware that Patrick Bamford had run in behind and David Button charged out of his goal to bring down the on-loan Chelsea midfielder.
Button escaped with a booking but Leadbitter sent him the wrong way for his 12th goal of the season.
Brentford: Button, Odubajo, Tarkowski, Dean (Smith 89), Bidwell; Diagouraga (Toral 76), Douglas, Jota, Pritchard, Dallas; Gray (Long 76). Unused substitutes: Craig, Saunders, Bonham, Yennaris.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Fredericks, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter, Clayton, Adomah (Forshaw 68), Tomlin; Bamford (Garcia 88), Vossen (Reach 81). Unused substitutes: Ledesma, Whitehead, Woodgate, Mejias.
Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).
Man of the match: Ben Gibson.