the sight of Adama Traore scampering down the wing and terrorising full-backs has become commonplace this season for Riverside regulars.
The mercurial Spaniard has sprinkled his stardust on plenty of Middlesbrough performances, often proving the difference and certainly adding the ‘X factor’ to a side that has slowly but surely come into its own as the season has worn on.
Traore highlighted his worth again during Boro’s victory at Pride Park, stealing the show with a glittering repertoire of tricks and flicks.
He topped off a memorable individual performance by setting up both goals; Mo Besic’s curled effort in the first half and Britt Assombalonga’s emphatic finish in the second.
David Nugent’s late penalty proved a mere consolation for the hosts as Boro moved to within one more win of securing a play-off spot.
Boro manager Tony Pulis says he is delighted with winger Traore’s recent form and says the penny is finally dropping with regards to a final product.
“The best thing about him is that he’s a good lad, very quiet,” said Pulis. “We just want him to go out and enjoy himself.
“We want him to get the ball because he’s got that instinct to play. He’s a fantastic player and is as quick as any I’ve ever worked with.
“He can create chances and score goals – he’s a wide player and we want him to run at the pitch.
“He received the ball for the second goal by running in behind the defender, which we’ve been talking to him about in training. We’re pleased with him.”
Pulis’s team were impressive against their fellow play-off hopefuls and the Welshman now wants to confirm a top-six berth when Millwall visit the Riverside on Saturday tea-time. He added: “We have to be a little more clinical, but I thought we played really well against Derby. I can’t give the players any more praise.
“We’ve got a tough game against Millwall next week so we’ve got to dust ourselves down and make sure we take the good stuff out of this game.
“It’s tough game after tough game – that’s what this league is.”
Derby manager Gary Rowett said: “I thought it was a much improved performance. We’ve got to the point where it’s now do or die.
“I feel like a broken record for the last 10 weeks, but we’re in the same position we were in before the game. We’ve got to step up and perform and while this was better, it wasn’t quite enough.”
Derby County: Carson, Forsyth, Davies, Keogh, Wisdom, Olsson (Weimann 63), Lawrence, Johnson, Huddlestone (Hanson 71), Vydra (Palmer 63), Nugent. Unused substitutes: Roos, Pearce, Ledley, Jerome.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend, Ayala, Gibson, Shotton, Howson, Besic (Leadbitter 81), Clayton, Downing (Fabio 85), Assombalonga, Traore. Unused substitutes: Dimi, Fry, Crainie, Johnson, Harrison.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).