Belfast Telegraph

Agnew: Boro would not be first team to pull off great escape

Middlesbrough must take encouragement from other great escapes as they look to plot their own route to safety, according to their interim head coach Steve Agnew.

Despite Wednesday's win over Sunderland, Boro begin the weekend still six points adrift of 17th-placed Hull in the Premier League and with only four fixtures remaining, three of which come against teams in the top four, any successful survival bid would rank alongside the most miraculous seen in the division's history.

Two seasons ago Leicester were seven points from safety with nine to play while Sunderland have performed a few Houdini acts in recent years, notably when winning four in a row down the stretch in 2014.

And it is those types of stories that Agnew, speaking ahead of Sunday's showdown with Manchester City at the Riverside, wants his squad to cling to as they look for inspiration that the drop is still avoidable for them.

"It has happened in the previous seasons and we're in a situation now where we're off the back of a win and we're in good spirits," Agnew said.

"It's all or nothing. We're getting used to that, it was the same the other night.

"The players were amazing and they produced a performance that got us three points. It's the same again on Sunday.

"Back-to-back wins are very, very difficult for a newly-promoted team. If you can, and we'll be going out to do that, then it does take everybody's confidence to the next level."

Piecing together the sort of sequences which Leicester and Sunderland did in years gone by seems even more unlikely when considering Boro have failed to win successive contests all season.

It will be the third time they have faced City this term, even if it was Aitor Karanka in charge rather than Agnew when City won 2-0 at the Riverside in the FA Cup in March, and when Boro claimed a point at the Etihad in the Premier League four months earlier.

"We know we're playing against a top, top team with a top coach," Agnew said.

"We're aware how difficult it is. When we went to the Etihad earlier in the season we came away with a point. In the FA Cup game we worked hard and had chances on the day.

"The three points that are at stake are something we're very much after and we're confident we'll put a performance on to hopefully match that."

Gaston Ramirez is free from suspension having missed the game against Sunderland following his dismissal against Bournemouth, while Agnew has injury concerns over Daniel Ayala, Victor Valdes and Grant Leadbitter.

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