Jonathan Woodgate admitted Middlesbrough remain “a work in progress” despite his first win as head coach against Wigan.
Britt Assombalonga’s 23rd-minute header was enough to seal Woodgate’s first three points since succeeding Tony Pulis in the summer and there was relief all around the Riverside Stadium.
But the Middlesbrough boss, knowing his team were far from convincing, does not want anyone to get carried away on Teesside and has warned that there will be peaks and troughs throughout his first season in charge.
“It feels great but the secret is, even when you lose, you don’t get too low and when you win don’t get too high, so stay level-headed,” said Woodgate. “I have said numerous times now, this is a work in progress and I have said to the fans, it is going to be a rocky road.
“We are trying to play in a different way, it’s important the fans go with us. There will be times where we go through a patch where we don’t win a few games, the fans stayed with us today.
“In the first 12 minutes we gave six to eight balls away in our own half. We do need to improve in those areas and at times we try to do too much. Wigan started to press us and almost scored.
“On the other side of that we did create chances. It was a fantastic ball in from Jonny Howson, who has been terrific all season, and a spectacular header by Britt.
“I was really calm. I am focused and I know the points will come.
“Today wasn’t the best spectacle in the world. We played better at against Brentford and got zilch, got a point at Luton where we played better. You have to find a way to grind it out. We have to do the dirty side of the game.”
Middlesbrough were fortunate to have gone ahead when Assombalonga headed in because Wigan had started the brighter and caused the home side problems.
Jamal Lowe, Kieffer Moore and Gavin Massey in the Latics’ attack all could have scored and Lowe in particular forced an early save out of goalkeeper Darren Randolph that would have changed the game completely.
Wigan manager Paul Cook knows his team could easily have got something but he is keen to see improvements as he looks to seal a first win since the opening weekend against Cardiff.
Cook said: “We started the game really well. At this level, if you don’t take your chances, the calibre of player Middlesbrough carry, you are always going to be caught out at some point.
“To go a goal behind was against the run of play. We’d had the better chances.
“We can’t be disappointed with how we played. I felt we certainly deserved something out of the game.”
Lowe also had a curling effort roll inches wide after he created space in the area soon after his earlier chance and then Assombalonga arrived on cue in the area to head in Howson’s brilliant delivery.
Woodgate said: “Britt has been different class. You give him chances and he will score. We should have put more balls into the box. I said at half-time, as a centre-half, if we put balls in the box sooner or later a forward will get on it.
“The ball from Jonny was terrific. It was a good performance by him.”
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