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McCann Pleased With Win

2 October 2021

Grant McCann was pleased with the way his side battled to an important three points against Middlesbrough.

Joe Lumley’s unfortunate 81st-minute own goal, after Keane Lewis-Potter’s volley had rebounded off the post and bounced in off the Boro keeper, and Mallik Wilks’ cool stoppage-time finish secured a 2-0 win.

The victory was the Tigers’ first since the opening day – and the first at home this season – leaving McCann a happy man.

“It’s a good win – a good win given the circumstances,” said McCann.

“It’s never easy playing against a Neil Warnock team; they had a tremendous result against Sheffield United on Tuesday night.

“I thought we had to dig deep today. We rode our luck at times, of course we did. There were some tremendous saves from Matty and a shot from (Andraz) Sporar in the second half that just went past the post.

“We had to stay strong defensively, we had to be organised, we had to pick up first balls, second balls. The nasty, ugly side of the game, we had to do well today – and we did it.

“I said to the players at half-time, ‘stick to the plan, keep winning them first, second balls, the quality doesn’t come unless you do it.

“Two bits of quality win us the game; Keane’s strike – whether he gets that goal or not, I’m not sure – and Mallik’s is a tremendous bit of skill.

“We’ve played a lot better and lost this season, for sure; I could probably tell you four or five games better than that which we’ve lost.

“But for us, it was important to get the three points. We wanted to continue from where we were on Tuesday night, getting a very good point here against Blackpool, who won again today.

“There’s not an easy game in this division – everyone is very tough in different, unique ways. We had to match them, fight and battle today to get the three points.”

Explaining the change of formation to a back three, with Lewis-Potter and Josh Emmanuel operating at wing-back, McCann said: “If you look at that system today, it was more of a fluent three slash four.

“We asked Keane to play a bit higher on the left-hand side and Josh to play a bit more reserved on the right because of (Marc) Bola’s strengths. Tyler (Smith) could drift on the right-hand side.

“We went into the game with no Callum Elder, no Brandon Fleming – both injured, Brandon’s a bit worse than Callum – no Lewie Coyle (suspension) and with two young left-backs out on loan.

“We were very short in the full-back area today and we asked Keane to do a job in that role and I thought he did it well.”

McCann 1 Middlesbrough H October 2021.jpg

Emmanuel and Tyler Smith came into the starting XI as McCann made five changes, with captain Richie Smallwood, man-of-the-match Di’Shon Bernard and Tom Eaves also recalled.

Asked about the alterations, McCann said: “It was for more energy and freshness.

“We knew they’d had a tough game against Sheffield United on Tuesday night. We had an inkling they were going to go with the same team – and they did.

“I felt the longer the game went on, our energy would prevail – and it happened.

“With Mallik, to be honest, I’ve rushed him into the team. I haven’t really got him as much training as I would like. It’s almost been game, recover, game, recover.

“It’s been tough for him since his injury. We’ve got the perfect opportunity for him now with these next couple of weeks to get a lot of training into Mallik and he’ll be better for that. Hopefully, that goal kicks him on.

“With Greg Docherty (coming out of the side), we went with Richie for his experience, know-how and positioning out of possession. He was absolutely outstanding – picked every second ball up, aggressive and dealt with Matt Crooks.”

On Elder’s injury, and the other absentees, McCann commented: “Callum just picked a little strain up on his calf on Tuesday night. It’s not bad – the game just came too quick for him today. If this game was on Monday, he would have played. It’s not bad.

“Josh Magennis was back on the grass today – again, this game just came too soon for him. Hopefully, they’ll both be fine for their international games. They’re not bad injuries.

“Tom Huddlestone is getting closer – again, he was out on the grass today. George Honeyman, we expect back for Huddersfield after the international break. Randell Williams the same and Lewie will definitely be back.”

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