THE Madejski Stadium may have provided Middlesbrough with one of their darkest hours under Aitor Karanka last season, but the Boro head coach believes they are now a wholly different proposition.
Boro produced the sort of performance often associated with late-season in an insipid 2-0 loss in Berkshire in late April, with Karanka admitting that only one team was playing for the points – play-off chasing Reading – and the other was playing for nothing.
The smart money is on Boro having more meaningful games at the end of this season, with the Teessiders also a far more stronger unit than the one who lost at Reading on April 22 and who were turned over by the Royals at the Riverside in late August.
Since then, the likes of Patrick Bamford and Jelle Vossen have arrived, with the team having successfully gelled.
Karanka, who could involve Chelsea youngster Tomas Kalas today, said: “We are a much different team.
“After the home game we had lost, I said we had lost our consistency, maybe not our identity but we made a lot of mistakes.
“My biggest concern that day was to recover our intensity and consistency.
“Now we’ve recovered that but we have to score more goals.”
If the Kalas loan deal is not completed in time, midfielder Dean Whitehead is likely to remain as an auxiliary right-back and Karanka has no sense of unease if that is the case.
He said: “Deano is the kind of player who you can always expect to give his best. If you put Deano in as a goalkeeper, you are going to expect 100 per cent from him.
“He’s the kind of player who not only gives everything on the pitch during the game either as a midfielder or a right-back but also in the training sessions and in the training room.”