Howson hopes hard work pays off for him and Boro

CHRISTMAS may have already been dramatic and tumultous from a Middlesbrough perspective, but for their players, the need to retain a sense of focus and a cool head is now their priority.

AWAY DAY BOOST: Former Middlesbrough winger Adam Reach is stopped by Grant Leadbitter during Saturday's Hillsborough encounter, which the visitors won 2-1. Picture: Steve Ellis.

The headlines following Boro’s morale-boosting weekend win at Hillsborough were quickly superseded by the shock sacking of Garry Monk, who paid the price for an underwhelming first half of the season although the timing of his dismissal took many by surprise.

But with the dust now starting to settle following Monk’s exit, the cold, hard facts remain that Boro have a stack of work to do if they are to enjoy the sort of season that chairman Steve Gibson envisaged in the summer.

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Saturday’s success at least kept the Teessiders in touch with the play-off positions, but it represented one small block in the rebuilding process.

On the need for Boro to build further momentum, Jonny Howson, who scored his first goal for the club on Saturday, said: “It was obviously a bit of a test of character with regard to the recent performances and results.

“We have got to use this to build some momentum. Over this Christmas period it is a terrific chance for us to get some momentum in a short space of time. We have been looking for that all season and hopefully now we can make it happen.

“We have passed the first hurdle, but that will not count for anything if we do not follow it up against Bolton.”

Saturday’s strike represented a touch of payback from Howson after suffering along with his team-mates in recent times and, despite a quiet start to his career on Teesside, he is hoping that his dedication and hard work will pay off in the weeks ahead.

Middlesbrough's Jonny Howson battles with Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett at the Riverside Stadium in October. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

He added: “The last couple of weeks obviously have not been that great.

“Speaking from a personal point of view, it has been a tough spell, but that is part and parcel of football.

“For me, it is certainly not the first time that I have been through a bad spell and, unfortunately, it probably will not be the last.

“That is just the way it is, but I am a big believer in keeping faith in what you are doing and carrying on doing what you know you are good at. If you work hard, things will turn round.”

Middlesbrough's Jonny Howson battles with Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett at the Riverside Stadium in October. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Last six games: Middlesbrough WLLWLW Bolton DLWLLW.

Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).

Last time: Middlesbrough 3 Bolton 0; August 15, 2015; Championship.