• Dan Christlow

War-knocking on the door of the play-offs?

This column is part of our Boro Stories series in which we ask supporters to share their thoughts and opinions on all things Middlesbrough FC - get in touch if you want to get involved!

Well, what a transformation we have seen from Boro since the international break.

A 2-0 defeat to Hull city had many of us thinking that the axe might finally fall on Neil Warnock's head.

Disharmony among supporters, social media in meltdown and October being a favourable month for Steve Gibson to sack a manager (Tony Mowbray, Garry Monk etc) would lead you to believe it might very well have happened.

Fast-forward just a couple of week, however, with three wins on the spin and sitting pretty in 6th in the Championship table - are things finally starting to click?

So what has changed? Three consecutive clean sheets have been a defining factor all without Boro's own lighthouse at the back Dael Fry.

Sol Bamba has been an absolute man mountain which is a glorious sight to see given everything he has been through.

Leading by example, his influence really seems to be oozing through the rest of the team.

An honourable mention must also go to Lee Peltier who very rarely puts a foot wrong - a very shrewd signing indeed.

The balance of the team is an issue that Warnock has addressed in the side on numerous occasions.

Since the departure of Sam Morsy, Boro have been left without that natural midfield protector and it’s shown, but with the shift of Matt Crooks into that deeper midfield role it is certainly paying dividends and he is quickly becoming a real fans' favourite.

That's down to his consistent performances, battling qualities and natural instinct to add an extra figure to the team's attacking efforts..

His passion and commitment to the team certainly come across and he definitely appears to be seen as one of the first names on the team sheet.

The relationship he seems to have with Martin Payero on and off the field is exactly what you want from an experienced professional.

The Argentine getting off the mark with a fine finish against Cardiff it does get you more and more excited to see what else is to come from the eagerly-anticipated summer arrival.

It’s also worth noting how influential Andraz Sporar has become.

His link-up play with Duncan Watmore and Uche Ikpeazu in the early parts of his time here just shows you the class of the man.

Get him the ball into feet and he’s also quite capable of a tidy assist, as shown against Cardiff.

Will he hit double figures? I’m confident he will as long we keep providing him with the sort of service that we are at the moment.

The one negative that does need highlighting from this current run is that we still aren’t clinical enough.

Most notably from the Cardiff game Crooks was wasteful dinking one just past the post and going back to midweek Duncan Watmore got away with one of the worst misses of the season.

At 1-0, the opposition always still has a chance to get back into the game and they did ride their luck at times in the second half against Cardiff.

Joe Lumley pulled off a brilliant reflex save from Rubin Colwill then Bamba was alert to clear from Aden Flint's header.

If Boro are to mount a serious playoff/promotion push, they do have to be more ruthless in front of goal.

So have Boro just beaten three poor teams and been made to look better than what they are?

The next three games before they enter another international break may just tell us that.

Birmingham (h) Luton (a) West Bromwich Albion (a) will be a real test to see if Warnock's side truly have turned a corner.

Be sure to tune in to the latest Boro Breakdown podcast for all your matchday chatter in a pod, which you can find here.

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