Jonathan Woodgate hailed Lewis Wing’s response to missing out on a starting place as he proved to be the vital difference in Middlesbrough’s crucial win over fellow strugglers Stoke City.
Wing came onto the field moments after Ashley Fletcher had fired home a 57th-minute equaliser for the Teessiders, cancelling out Sam Clucas’s opener for Stoke.
The former Northern League player has developed a reputation for scoring long-range goals and having scored a cracker at Luton on the opening weekend of the season, he was at it again to extend Boro’s winning run at the Riverside to three matches.
Picking up the ball at the heart of midfield, he drove towards the Stoke penalty area before drilling a superb finish into the bottom left-hand corner.
Woodgate said: “I was to-ing and fro-ing whether to put Wing in.
“In training yesterday, he smashed one or two like that in.
“But I thought I’d go with the experience of Adam Clayton, because of the young players that were playing.
“Lewis has got that in his locker though.
“He can hit balls constantly, but it’s about doing it on the big stage.
“It’s about transferring that from the training pitch on to stadium packed full of punters.
The fans were (restless) and I understand that,” he added. “They expect us to steamroll teams, but it doesn’t happen like that.
“I thought he was good when he came on, and I want my players to be disappointed when they’re left out, I want them to be grumpy.
“I thought he responded really well, that’s what I want.”
As well as bringing on Wing, Woodgate also introduced Rudy Gestede shortly before the hour mark, both proving a factor in Middlesbrough’s success.
The Boro boss also said he understood the home fans’ restlessness in recent weeks.
“The fans were (restless) and I understand that,” he added. “They expect us to steamroll teams, but it doesn’t happen like that.”