Middlesbrough’s attacking trio take praise from Neil Warnock

NEIL Warnock praised the contributions of Middlesbrough’s front three as his Boro tenure got off to a winning start.

Ashley Fletcher and Patrick Roberts combined for the opening goal midway through the first half after Warnock deployed the pair in a front three alongside Britt Assombalonga, who caused plenty of problems for Stoke’s backline in a relegation ‘six-pointer’.

Warnock was delighted with Roberts’s contributions before he was replaced just after the hour by Marcus Tavernier, who claimed Boro’s second goal at the Bet365 Stadium.

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“I love exciting players like him. I could have gave him a bit of a rollicking, if I am honest, there were a couple of times he could have put people in,” said Warnock.

Taking charge: Middlesbrough's new manager Neil Warnock and Stoke City manager Michael O'Neill. Picture: PA

“But, when you are a wide player, as long as you do it in the right areas and not in your own half. I thought the front three did well. Your defending starts with your front three and if I was a defender I wouldn’t want to defend against them.”

It was confirmed before kick-off that Daniel Ayala and Rudy Gestede had both left the club before the expiration of their contracts on Tuesday. Warnock revealed how he had asked Gestede to sign a short-term extension but the striker was not willing to commit.

“I asked Rudy to stay and he said he wasn’t prepared to do that,” added Warnock.

“So I told him he may as well go home now, so I sent him off on Thursday. There was no point doing anything else.”

Eye on the ball: Middlesbrough's Ashley Fletcher and Stoke City's James Chester. Picture: PA

Stoke City: Butland; Smith, Batth, Chester, Martins Indi (Vokes 58); Sorensen (Ince 41), Thompson (Cousins 58); McClean, Powell, Clucas; Campbell (Gregory 79). Unused substitutes: Ward, Davies, Oakley-Boothe, Tymon, Collins. 

Middlesbrough: Stojanovic; Johnson, Friend, Fry, Spence; Saville (Shotton 81), Howson, McNair (Wing 64); Assombalonga, Fletcher, Roberts (Tavernier 61). Unused substitutes: Clayton, Morrison, Moukoudi, Nmecha, Wood-Gordon, Pears.

Referee: M Donohue (Sale).

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