Neil Warnock praised teenage centre-half Nathan Wood after the Middlesbrough youngster’s first Championship start ended in a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest.
Wood, an 18-year-old product of Middlesbrough’s academy who is the son of former Boro full-back Dean Gordon, replaced the injured Dael Fry as Warnock’s side climbed into the play-off positions for the first time this season.
Playing alongside Paddy McNair at centre-half, Wood helped contain a Forest side that failed to record a single effort on target, and while Warnock wants the teenager to keep his feet on the ground, he was delighted with his debut display.
The Middlesbrough manager said: “Let’s not get carried away, but it’s a good start. It’s his debut and I can’t fault anything he did. It’s nice for him to be playing alongside Paddy in a back four that’s doing really well.
“He just played his own game. That’s what I told him – ‘be normal, play your normal game and don’t take any chances’. He’s a smashing lad and that will do him the world of good.”
Having scored two late goals in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Coventry, Boro’s patience was rewarded again as Marvin Johnson claimed an 81st-minute winner to beat Forest.
Warnock’s side have not lost a league game since the opening weekend of the season, and the veteran boss felt their latest success was fully merited.
He said: “I said at half-time it was a similar thing to Coventry. It took us 80 minutes to score then and I said it might take us 90 today, but there is a goal there if we keep playing like we are.
“We can still step it up another notch, but they’re a good side when you let them play, so we had to make sure we didn’t let them play. I thought there were a lot of pluses. (Anfernee) Dijksteel and (Marc) Bola were super against two really good wide players.”
The result meant Chris Hughton suffered his first defeat since taking over as Nottingham Forest boss, and while he was happy with his side’s defensive performance, he conceded his players did not carry enough of an attacking threat.
Hughton said: “Middlesbrough have a way of playing and do it very well. Defensively, you have to cope against that style, but then you also have to be better on the ball. I thought we coped with the defensive side for most of the game, but needed to be better in possession.
“Defensively, I’ve generally been happy with the team, but the only way to relieve pressure on yourself is to take the lead, which we haven’t been able to do in my time here.
“We need to relieve that bit of pressure by showing that little bit more quality when we get into the opposition’s final third. We haven’t got enough wins – we need to find the right formula to start winning games.”