West Brom v Middlesbrough: Neil Warnock relieved to be in touching distance of top six

IT is about at this time of the season when managers start to seriously look at league tables and Neil Warnock is no different.

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock.

The current Championship standings show that Bournemouth, Fulham and West Brom are comfortably ahead of the pack, but for the vastly-experienced Boro chief, there is some semblance of hope in that.

Even if his side must face one of the big-hitters today.

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Below third-placed Albion, the division – in truth – looks much of a muchness with just six points separating fourth-placed Coventry City from Preston, one place below Boro in 15th.

Warnock said: “We have not got to get too far away from the top six. At the moment, I don’t think there has ever been a closer league in my time than what is happening at the minute.

“I am pleased about that because it means we are not getting left too far behind.”

Warnock renews acquaintances with Baggies head coach Valerien Ismael this afternoon, with his Barnsley side easing past the Teessiders 2-0 in their previous head-to-head at Oakwell in April.

Just like at Barnsley, Ismael has not won many plaudits for style and artistic merit in his time at The Hawthorns, but there is plenty of substance by way of an unerring ability to get the job done by way of points.

Albion are particularly resolute on home soil, where they are unbeaten in the league in eight matches thus far, with Ismael’s side winning six of them and conceding just four goals – the joint-best home defensive record in the division.

Warnock added: “He has his way of playing and has got better players to do it (than at Barnsley).

“They are grinding out results because they are going to get opportunities with the squad they have got.”