Middlesbrough are braced for a battle as they go to combative Luton in their final away game of the Championship season this weekend (Saturday, KO 3pm).
Boss Neil Warnock wants his side to lift themselves for the clash with the division’s surprise side, who could move level on points with ninth placed Boro if they win to continue their late surge.
“People say we have nothing to play for and that can be difficult but we have our pride at stake and I want us to finish well,” said the boss as they reflected on back to back wins that have set Boro up for final flourish.
Boro battled to a 2-1 win a relegation haunted Rotherham and then beat another of the basement boys Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 last time out, with a debut goal from teenage striker Josh Coburn.
“I’ve been happy with the attitude in the last few games,” said Warnock. “And I’ve been delighted to give a few young lads an opportunity. Their enthusiasm has given us a bit of a buzz about the place and I think we needed that.
“I want to keep that up. We will need to keep that up because it will be a very difficult game against Luton. They are in very good form and they are very physical, not dirty, but very keen and very competitive.
“I like them, me. I think they have been superb this season. They are exactly the kind of team that I like to manage: they all give 100% every week, they compete, they work hard, they fight for each other and the team. I like that.
“They have adapted to life in the Championship well. They just stayed up last year and that was a great achievement and they have got better this season. They changed things a bit and tried to play more and it didn’t work out but they have gone back to what they know and they are getting the best out of what they’ve got.
“They were two down against Bristol City last week and I went out for a ride on my bike and when I got back they had won 3-2. That’s what they are about. They are resolute. They are ready to fight.”
Threadbare Boro are likely to be largely unchanged for the trip with none of their walking wounded back.
“We are very similar, to be honest,” said Warnock. “Djed Spence had a bit of a knock in training, I’m not sure if he had a scan in the end but I think he is back in training today. Other than that, everyone we had last week is available. Mendez-Laing is getting better but he’s still touch and go so I doubt he will feature again.”
Coburn is likely to feature again though. He added some intensity and movement up front as well as scoring/
“It’s given everyone a lift,” said the boss. “I’ve always said if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Players like Josh have been training with us for a good few weeks now and he’s put in a lot of hard work, but it’s great when young lads do that and come in without any fear.
“It’s great to be able to give them an opportunity, even if it’s just for a few minutes of a game.”