Jonny Howson: The ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ guides Boro to late victory in Birmingham

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Middlesbrough skipper Jonny Howson set up an 87th-minute winner for super-sub George Saville as Neil Warnock’s side came from behind to beat a buoyant Coventry City side 2-1 at St. Andrew’s.

With the game closing out and in need of a single moment of brilliance to change the course of events – that’s exactly what the 32-year-old brought to the table.

Skipping past Michael Rose with ease and drilling an enticing ball across the six-yard box, the ball was parried out into the path of Northern Ireland international George Saville to slot home.

Warnock recently promoted Howson to club captain, replacing striker Britt Assombalonga who has struggled with injuries this season. The former Leeds and Norwich midfielder appears to have repaid his gaffer’s faith already.

The Yorkshire-born manager was delighted with the three points but isn’t getting ahead of himself just yet.

“I think we’re still improving and we’ve got a long way to go, but that’s how to graft points when you’re at a place like tonight. All credit to the lads, I thought Jonny Howson was outstanding.”

The midfielder is a rare goal threat and offers something completely different to the Boro midfield that the modern game would possibly class as ‘outdated’.

With just one goal and one assist to his name this season, an iconic Jose Mourinho quote springs to mind after his Manchester United side fell to a 3-1 defeat away to Manchester City.

“People who don’t understand football analyse with stats.”

Howson is able to dictate the tempo of play, and in doing so help the players around him perform at the same pace he does. Of course, the quality is not world class but impressive for the second tier of English football.

A veteran leader can have an impact on a team that is instrumental to their style of play and focus – the maturity of a player like the 32-year-old allows his decision making to be more cultured and appropriate.

As the season draws to an end, it’s crunch time for Middlesbrough as they look to push on and reach the Play-Offs. They sit just three points behind Mick McCarthy’s in-form Cardiff City, and with the right mindset they can achieve that feat.

Howson’s midfield partnership with Paddy McNair and Marcus Tavernier is proving to be one of the best in the Championship, as the midfield enjoyed quite the showing at St. Andrew’s.

McNair grabbed the assist from a pin-point cross which found the head of Grant Hall for the equaliser, and Tavernier found himself everywhere across the pitch when needed on the occasion.

Recording the team’s most dribbles, key passes and successful tackles, 21-year-old Tavernier showed exactly the grit and grind needed on a crisp Tuesday night in the West Midlands.

A tough run lies ahead for Boro, up against fourth-placed Swansea at the weekend and a mid-table clash with Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City shortly after.

These fixtures will prove decisive in the Play-Off race, whether or not Warnock’s men can display the quality needed to drive up the table and reach the level of consistency that the other teams possess.

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19 year old Football Journalism student at the University of Derby.

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