Karanka hoping to end year on Reading high

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MIDDLESBROUGH achieved plenty of unwanted milestones in 2013, but they are aiming to secure a more positive one to sign off the calendar year with tomorrow.

After an annus horribilis on the field, which saw the club go from automatic promotion candidates at the start of January to potential relegation contenders in a chronic descent in form and results in the second half of last season – with things not getting much better in the opening months of 2013-14 – a chink of light has emerged.

The Teessiders, fresh from their televised victory at Millwall just before Christmas, backed up impressively with a sweet 1-0 victory over former leaders Burnley at the Riverside, thanks to Emmanuel Ledesma’s long-ranger.

It secured back-to-back league victories for Boro for the first time in 2013, with the potential of reaching another first for the current calendar year if they defeat Nigel Adkins’s Royals tomorrow.

A win over the Berkshire outfit would see Boro record a hat-trick of consecutive Championship victories for the first occasion since October 2012 – and put them in good spirits for their New Year’s Day trip to Bolton Wanderers.

Manager Aitor Karanka said: “Winning two games in a row is very important. The players were doing very, very well before, but now with the results, everything is easier and we have confidence for the next game at home in front of our people against Reading.

“When you win, you can enjoy your job. If we’d lost against Burnley, it would be difficult to prepare for the next game. Now we need to keep working in this way and adding the points.

“I said to the players before the Burnley game how important the squad are because we have four game sin 10 days and they all have to try and be ready all the time.

“I always said I am very happy with my squad. The players have worked very well since I came; the problem has just been the late mistakes. I don’t think there have been what you might call ‘horrible’ games.”

Meanwhile, young Boro players Matty Dolan and centre-half Christian Burgess are likely to remain on loan at Hartlepool United – managed by former Boro favourite Colin Cooper – until May.

Currently, Burgess’s deal expires on Monday, and Dolan will depart after the January 1 clash with Bury.