Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis is urging his players to ‘have a right go’ as the chase for the Championship play-offs goes down to the wire.
The veteran of many a Premier League survival battle is now relishing the fight at the top end of a table with Middlesbrough one of seven teams separated by five points fighting for the final two spots in the play-offs.
Despite defeat to one of those teams – Sheffield United on Tuesday night – knocking them out of sixth spot, Boro’s destiny remains in their own hands.
They face eighth-placed Bristol City today, fifth-placed Derby County next Saturday and sixth-placed Millwall seven days later before rounding off their season at Ipswich Town.
Pulis is wanting his side to replicate the form they showed in the second half of the defeat at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night.
Reduced to 10 men after Grant Leadbitter’s sending off midway through the first half, a tactical switch to five across the middle saw Boro cut an interval deficit in half in a second half they dominated.
“Let’s hope we can take that second half into the game with Bristol City,” said Pulis, who took Stoke City into the Premier League a decade ago.
“We went to Sheffield United on Tuesday really looking forward to the game with lots of enthusiasm and a desire for us to play well.
“Win, lose or draw, I wanted us to play well. First half we didn’t, but second half we showed the energy and commitment we needed and that’s what we’re going to need going into the final four games.
“For me as a manager, if you can’t finish in the top two, you want to finish in the top six, and this is where you want to be.
“This is not pressure, this is what we all want. We want to be in these positions. Footballers want to be playing in these types of games, cauldron atmospheres where eveything is on the line.
“I think it’s brilliant and I want the players not to be tight, or conservative, I want them to grasp it; win, lose or draw, have a right go.”