Southgate praises Boro's strike force

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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate has warned Premiership defences to be wary of Middlesbrough's back-to-form strikers Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

The Australian and his Dutch accomplice combined in devastating fashion to beat Manchester City 3-2 on Monday night and end a barren run stretching back months. Viduka had not scored in the Premiership since 11 September. Hasselbaink was the last on the scoresheet with his hat-trick in a 4-0 win at Blackburn on 16 October.

But it was not just the fact that both men scored against City but the quality of their goals which gave the greatest cause for optimism on Teesside, the former producing one deft and another technically adept finish before the latter thumped a trademark free-kick past David James.

No one at Boro ever lost faith in the two men recruited during the summer to provide the goals the club have lacked in recent seasons. But their return to form is timely, and Southgate for one is confident that there is more to come.

"Jimmy and Mark are always under the spotlight because of their reputation and the ability they possess," he said. "The great thing is that we had been winning games without them scoring, because you know that they will eventually hit form and that was proved correct by the brilliant way they took their goals.

"I was pleased for both of them, especially Mark, because he's had a longer spell without scoring."

Even while the pair were not scoring, they were doing plenty for the Boro cause - according to Southgate. "They have given us a physical presence that we didn't have, which is particularly important away from home," he said. "Other teams must fear playing against them because they both have excellent goalscoring records, and straight away that puts opponents on the back foot and keeps their defenders occupied.

"I'm sure both of them will be relieved to have scored again because no matter what the quality of the player or the experience, all strikers wants to score goals.

"It's not an issue within the dressing-room. But generally it is highlighted, and every time a game passes without them scoring it's a case of 'well now it's eight games; now it's nine'."

Southgate was never worried, however. "We were scoring from other positions, and that's the way it should be," he said.

"They will be hoping they can go on a good run of scoring now, and I certainly believe they will. You could see by the way Mark took his second that the confidence had suddenly come flowing back. If he hadn't scored that first one he might have taken an extra touch [with the second]. That's a warning for everyone else that we are going to play against."