JONATHAN WOODGATE revealed that his Middlesbrough teammates had not practised playing the 3-5-2 formation in the run-up to Saturday’s victory at Burnley.
Aitor Karanka sprang a surprise before the game by selecting three centre-halves, and employing Albert Adomah and Emmanuel Ledesma as wing-backs, owing to the absence of Kenneth Omeruo, Ben Gibson and George Friend at Turf Moor.
Woodgate was joined in defence by Dani Ayala and Nathaniel Chalobah and admits that while it was a bit of a curveball, Karanka made sure his side was well drilled before taking to the pitch.
“We didn’t train in that shape,” said Woodgate. “We knew what we were doing because the manager is clever, he knows what he is doing. His instructions before the game left us in no doubt what we were doing, we all had our jobs.
“We were fully prepared. He told us what we had to do before the game, and we did it. But it was hard.
“We went there with a depleted squad, but every player that did participate was first class. We had Manu [Ledesma] playing left-back towards the end of the game, he’s an out and out winger, we played three at the back to start with which we’d never played before. It showed the togetherness of the team to get a result and get three points.”
Boro’s 1-0 win in Lancashire, courtesy of a Jacob Butterfield goal, may not be enough to secure a finish in the play-off places this season, but Woodgate is impressed that Karanka’s side are at least going into the end of the season with momentum.
“It’s about consistency, and that’s why Burnley are up the top, because they have been consistent throughout the campaign,” said Woodgate. “They fully deserve to be there. We’ve taken six points off them this season, though.
“We’re trying to win as many games as we can before the end of the season. We’re doing that at the minute, let’s see where it takes us. There’s four games left, let’s try and get 12 points. It spurs you on for next season, it keeps the winning mentality going, we’ve got a good group of players there.”
Woodgate attracted some criticism from Clarets fans last week when he suggested that, 11 v 11, he would mostly choose Middlesbrough players over Burnley’s, and the former Real Madrid defender stood by that after the game.
Woodgate said: “One of the players asked me during the game why I said that. I said “you’re a better team, but we have better individuals.” That’s my opinion, you look at Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. Barca have better players, but at the minute, Atletico are the better team.
“They’ve played them a few times this season and haven’t beaten them, so it just shows. They’re a better team but we’re better individually, but I’d rather we were a better team.”