MENTION of Charlton Athletic, Rotherham United, Bristol City or MK Dons is likely to preclude any complacency in Middlesbrough ranks at the Macron Stadium this lunch-time.
The Teesside club are short odds to secure their sixth successive Championship win and take another step towards automatic promotion in front of the TV cameras at relegated Bolton, with the sides at the opposite ends of the division’s form table.
But head coach Aitor Karanka is certainly not dismissive of the recent past ahead of the game in which Bolton will be under the guidance of caretaker chief and ex-Boro left-back Jimmy Phillips.
With good reason, with Boro having been turned over without so much as scoring a goal in losses on the road to the trio of the Addicks, Millers and the Robins this calendar year, and only a last-gasp goal from Jordan Rhodes saved them from the ignominy of defeat at MK Dons.
Karanka, whose side’s record against teams in the bottom half of the table is only the 11th best in the Championship, said: “The best lesson is what’s happened this season.
“It’s easy to explain – we went to Rotherham expecting an easy game and had a lot of chances, but did not score. In the second half, we did not play in our way and lost.
“We went to Bristol City after a great run through December and January and we lost.
“Then we went to Charlton – it was different as everyone knows what happened that weekend – but we lost.
“For that reason, the best lesson is to learn what happened in those games. Always when you play against these kind of teams, it is a mental thing.
“When you have to defend, then you are more confident as you’re better than them. But when you have to score and you are confident, but not focused on the chance, then you miss. That happened against Rotherham. We need another three points.”
Karanka admits that the presence of the TV cameras is also likely to provide motivation for the Trotters, with several managerial hopefuls likely to be in attendance today.
He added: “They are playing for nothing, but this game is on TV. That’s another motivation.
“They are relegated, but in front of the TV cameras they will want to show everybody that they are not a bad team.
“It’s also a motivation for us. We are going to have a lot of fans behind us, which will be important, so it is just about keeping going in our own way.”