Tony Pulis was always confident Jordan Hugill would rediscover his scoring touch and the Middlesbrough manager has now challenged the West Ham loanee to stay on the goal trail.
Hugill slotted home from the penalty spot against Wigan to net his first league goal since his summer move to the Riverside and was on target again five minutes later as he lashed a half-volley into the roof of the net.
The 2-0 victory earned Boro a first league win in four games after three straight draws and was especially sweet for Hugill, a native Teessider who once pulled pints in one of his home-town’s pubs.
Pulis said: “I was really pleased that Jordan got the two goals. What people have missed, and I’ve said it before, is that the lad went from Preston to West Ham and was never involved in any football at all in the Premier League.
“Then in pre-season he got an injury, so he hasn’t really done anything for six months. He came here really cold, his fitness levels were nowhere near those of the rest of the group.
“But he’s worked really hard and, in the last few games, we’ve seen some good signs. The players are delighted for him because he’s such a good lad around the place. He works so hard and he’s got his qualities.”
Pulis is picking Hugill ahead of Britt Assombalonga and Rudy Gestede and expects his performances to improve now he has broken his league duck.
He said: “I don’t think this will do him any harm at all. Getting the two goals can only help and, to be fair to him, he didn’t want anyone else to take that penalty. He was really keen to take it, which is brilliant.
“He’s missed a few chances, but that’s forwards. He keeps getting in there and he keeps going. The great thing about him is that he’s got that little bit of steel about him. He’s a local lad and he’s desperate to do well.”
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Fry, Batth, Flint, Friend, Howson, Clayton, Besic (Saville 84), Downing, Hugill (Assombalonga 69), Braithwaite (Wing 76). Unused substitutes: Konstantopoulos, Ayala, McNair, Gestede.
Wigan Athletic: Walton, James, Kipre, Burn, Robinson, Byrne, Lee Evans, Gibson, Roberts (Naismith 83), Windass (McManaman 74), Powell (Vaughan 74). Unused substitutes: Bruce, Da Silva Lopes, Jones, Garner.
Referee: D England (South Yorkshire).