Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis said his team’s first-half performance in their 2-0 win over Ipswich was “as good as we have played all season”.
The Teessiders climbed a place to second in the Championship table and ended Ipswich’s curious record of drawing every home game this season.
The goals came from Mo Besic in the 12th minute and Stewart Downing in the 16th and Pulis said: “It was as good as we have played all season. The big disappointment was that we got sloppy in the second half.
“Ipswich got the ball up the sides in the second half and I knew this was going to be more of a football game with a slick, quick pitch.
“The team has done absolutely fantastic when you think we are through to the last 16 of the Carabao Cup and a couple of points away from Leeds. I am really pleased.
“The interplay – we did really, really well at times. The lads have worked with me for seven months now and Stewart and Martin (Braithwaite) and people like that are great.
“It’s the third game on the bounce away and that’s tough, the way they worked I thought we looked a little bit tired.”
The opener came when Besic picked the ball up on the halfway line and made his way towards the visitors’ penalty area. His initial shot was blocked by Toto Nsiala but the Bosnian collected the rebound and strode forward to beat keeper Dean Gerken.
Ipswich skipper Luke Chambers then presented the ball straight to Downing, who made a bee-line towards goal and his left-footed shot from just inside the penalty area took a faint deflection off Janoi Donacien to end up in the net.
Town boss Paul Hurst said his side must cut out crucial mistakes as they chase a first victory of the season.
Hurst said: “Overall I’m pleased with some of the character shown in the second half but I can’t keep saying that.
“It was far too easy and you don’t want to give them goals to start with, certainly not against a team with the defensive record that they have, and it made it very difficult for the players.
“The atmosphere changes and it’s a very difficult night and that was the message at half-time, you are really going to have to stand up – and in fairness we had a couple of good individual performances.
“We’re now on to Saturday and we need people to really step up.
“Second half, Middlesbrough have got the goals, they don’t have to commit many people forward and they can be a little bit more defensive, but for me we have got to cut mistakes out and at the minute we can’t do that as a team.
“There are definitely no easy games in this league, everyone we play will fancy their chances. I have said already we will play worse this season and win a game of football, but it’s got to happen sooner rather than later.”