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 hometown’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 both Britt Assombalonga and Rudy Gestede and expects his performances to improve now he has broken his Championship 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, he had two headers today he could maybe have scored with, and should have hit the target at least. But 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 for this football club.”
Wigan’s defeat leaves them just four points clear of the relegation zone and Paul Cook admits his side are making far too many costly errors.
The Latics have now lost four games in a row and their strong start to the season is being rapidly undone.
Cook said: “I’m very disappointed to lose, but we’re in the midst of disappointing run for us. You come to places like the stadium today playing against a very strong team, know you’re going to have to defend and come under pressure, but from my point of view the goals we’re giving away aren’t coming from pressure, they’re coming from individual mistakes.
“It’s a sucker punch. You can make a million excuses, but if you offer good strong teams like Middlesbrough the opportunity to gain confidence you’re going to give yourself a mountain you can’t climb.
“Without being disrespectful to ourselves, to give it a go was the least we could do. But we’re littered with individual errors from game to game.
“If you make individual errors, as I say with Middlesbrough, they’re an excellent side, very strong all over the pitch, they’ll cause you loads of problems and when they have to defend they’ll defend as good as anyone.”