7:00am Monday 30th December 2013
By Paul Fraser
AITOR KARANKA has revealed Shay Given is interested in staying at Middlesbrough for the rest of the season after helping to secure a third successive Championship win.
Given made a vital save to deny Jobi McAnuff in the first half and then turned away a drive from Danny Williams late on as Boro cruised to a 3-0 victory over promotion hopefuls Reading yesterday.
The 37-year-old goalkeeper is due to play the last game of his loan at Bolton on New Year's Day before he returns to parent club Aston Villa, where he has been third choice under Paul Lambert.
His performances on Teesside are likely to have caught the eye of a number of other clubs, while his Premier League contract means Villa would also prefer to strike a deal with a top-flight club during the January transfer window.
Middlesbrough fans made their feelings known at the Riverside Stadium yesterday, when they regularly chanted Given's name and asked for chairman Steve Gibson to “sign him up”.
Karanka shares the supporters' belief and thinks the former Newcastle and Sunderland No 1 would be happy to commit to stay in the North-East until the summer if a deal can be done with Villa.
“Shay is a very important player for us and not just for his work in the goal,” said Karanka. “He is very important in the dressing room and we are working to keep him here.
“Shay is happy here because he's wants to play games and he's playing now. We hope he can stay for the rest of the season.”
Given's saves prevented Reading from pulling a goal back yesterday as Middlesbrough made it nine points from nine over Christmas to climb to within six points of the play-offs.
It was the first time Middlesbrough have won three league games in a row without conceding since Gareth Southgate's reign in 2009.
Albert Adomah's ninth goal of the season – a sweet strike after Lukas Jutkiewicz's knock down – got things rolling in the 13th minute.
Midfielder Grant Leadbitter added a second nine minutes from time with a brilliant long-range effort before he rounded off the win with a penalty eight minutes before the end.
The manner of the victory was impressive, with Middlesbrough having 21 shots on goal – nine of which were on target – and they have displayed a confidence in the last two home dates which has been missing for the majority of 2013.
But Karanka said: “We are not getting carried away. We have won three in a row, but if we think we have done something, we are wrong. We need to keep working in this way and keep winning games.
“I told my players before the Burnley game that this is an important period and I'm very happy to have 27 players to choose from. We played very well and fought very hard, but we need to improve.
"I didn't like the second half when we had one more player than Reading, yet they still had the ball.”
Leadbitter's first goal stemmed from a tackle by Emmanuel Ledesma deep in his own half, just days after his manager had demanded more from the in-form Argentine defensively.
Karanka said: “I told Mannu when we scored the second goal that it had come from him. He is a very good player when he has the ball, but I've told him to improve when he doesn't have it.
“Today he fought a lot and played very well again. It was an important win in an important game.”
Reading manager Nigel Adkins, whose side missed an opportunity to climb in to the play-offs, was frustrated and felt the scoreline did not do his team justice.
He felt that referee Paul Tierney was unfair to send off defender Kaspars Gorkss seven minutes after half-time for a second bookable offence. After picking up a yellow card for a first half foul on Jutkiewicz, he then went to ground unnecessarily on half-way to try to thwart Ledesma.
He also thought Ledesma was lucky to earn a penalty, converted by Leadbitter, when he charged in to the box and was deemed to have been upended by Alex Pearce.
Adkins said: “The second goal we conceded, Jobi McAnuff was fouled in the build up. Then for the sending off, I didn't think it was a booking for the first one and the second he has not touched the player. It does change the complexion of the game.
“We were bright and we had a couple of opportunities. Shay Given pulled off a couple of top saves. Was it a penalty late on? Our centre-half had both feet fixed and their player runs in to our player.”
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