Middlesbrough boss Garry Monk is confident there is more to come from his team after seeing them climb into fifth place in the Sky Bet Championship with victory over struggling Sunderland.
Teenager Marcus Tavernier’s first league goal was enough to clinch a 1-0 win at the Riverside Stadium and complete a nine-point haul from their last three games.
Asked if Boro could stay in the top six, Monk said: “Who knows? There’s a lot of football to play. All we concentrate on is what we are doing. We fought hard for each and every three points this week.
“We know what we need to improve on and what we need to get better at, but there’s no criticism from me this week for the players. They have been excellent.”
Sunderland striker Lewis Grabban was denied a third-minute opener by Boro keeper Darren Randolph after he had spilled Didier Ndong’s long-range effort, and the Teessiders took full advantage within three minutes when 18-year-old Tavernier turned home Martin Braithwaite’s near-post cross.
Monk said: “Derby games tend to not be the easiest of games, sometimes they don’t turn into the prettiest of games, but I think the real moment of quality in the match in terms of our goal, the build-up and then the execution of it, deserved to win the match.”
Monk’s delight was in stark contrast to Robbie Stockdale’s mood as the Black Cats’ joint caretaker manager was left to reflect upon what might have been.
Asked if the game had reflected the story of the bottom-of-the-table club’s season to date, he said: “Yes, you could argue that.
“We’re really disappointed to lose the game. I thought we were well in it. For it to be decided within the first six minutes was disappointing after the opportunity we had to score.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we are unlucky losers because we could have said that too many times this year. It’s up to us and change that and be lucky winners occasionally.”
Sunderland are without a league win in 14 attempts, but Stockdale, who revealed he has been told nothing further about the managerial situation since being handed the reins on a temporary basis, is convinced there is enough in the dressing room to get them out of trouble.
He said: “I certainly do, yes. You look at the group of players we have got and I’m convinced they will pull away out of this.”