It was at 2pm on Saturday when the team sheets were revealed that Tony Pulis had opted to name Marcus Tavernier in Boro’s starting XI at Brentford – a decision for which the Boro manager could now take credit for.
Tavernier, only 19, justified the decision of his manager with a crucial goal as he helped Middlesbrough gain a 2-1 win away at Brentford on Saturday.
Pulis had decided to rest Martin Braithwaite after the midfielder had played in both of Denmark’s games during the international break.
Still, while it was easy to bench Braithwaite, the decision to start Tavernier ahead of other options such as George Saville, Rudy Gestede and Britt Assombalonga wasn’t so straightforward.
The 19-year-old justified the faith of his manager with an impressive performance, as he headed home Dael Fry’s cross to score what turned out to be the winner at Griffin Park.
Speaking after the game, Pulis said: “I thought Tav did really well. He’s a 19-year-old, just coming in. I decided earlier in the week he was going to play but didn’t tell him until he got back on Thursday from England Under-20s. It was Wednesday actually, I think I told him in the gym.”
“His legs, his pace - and he wants to run and run forward. His goal, it’s a great ball in from Dael.”
As suggested by the scoreline, there were some nervy moments in the final stages of the game, as Boro were clinging on to their 1-goal advantage. However, with Darren Randolph making a couple of excellent saves, the Teessiders were able to come out of the fixture with all three points.
The Middlesbrough manager was delighted to see the composure shown by his team, though he wasn’t as impressed by their profligacy in front of goal.
“You can criticise our finishing again. Flinty’s chance in the first half, he should be hitting the target, Jordan goes through and we had two or three other opportunities we never turned into chances or goals.”
“You have to give Brentford real credit, they had a right go in the second half. I know they’ve got nothing to lose, but I’m really pleased with the three points.”
Saturday’s win means that Middlesbrough have now stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches, with them sitting just two points off of leaders Norwich in the table.