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Karanka urges Boro match-winner to keep improving
AITOR KARANKA has challenged Emmanuel Ledesma to prove he can hold down a first team Middlesbrough shirt for the long term after a match-winning display on Boxing Day.
Ledesma's 24th minute strike was the difference at the Riverside Stadium when Boro finally made it two league wins in a row for the first time in 2013.
The 25-year-old was a constant menace to the Burnley defence and his display was a key component in stopping the Championship's leaders before kick-off.
But Karanka refuses to get carried away with Ledesma's exciting display and has urged the winger to improve on parts of his game which still let him down against the Clarets.
“He played very well and is an important player for us,” said Karanka. “I still want to see more from Emmanuel. He was very good on the ball but he needs to do more without the ball and work with the team.
"I am very happy with him at this moment, but he needs to improve without the ball. He has talent but everybody needs to work for the team. That is the most important thing.”
After collecting Marvin Emnes' pass inside, Ledesma was allowed to take a few steps forward and unleash a rasping drive which bounced in front of goalkeeper Tom Heaton before flying in.
He also had a couple of other decent efforts on goal and created chances for team-mates, showing all the ingredients in an attacking sense to excite Karanka.
Ledesma's display was part of a promising attacking performance from Middlesbrough, who could have added to the scoreline with Lukas Jutkiewicz and Albert Adomah among those to go close.
Karanka has been encouraged with the progress of his team after watching his players follow up Saturday's win at Millwall with another festive victory over Burnley.
He said: “The team is more confident now and, in the first 30 minutes, deserved to score two or three goals to kill the game off. We missed a lot and this is the thing we need to improve. We need to score more goals. If we don't, we have problems at the end of games.”
But the former Real Madrid assistant manager is demanding even more from the squad, knowing there is still a nine point gap to close to the Championship play-off zone.
“The players have worked very hard since I came here, but mistakes in the last few minutes have cost us,” said Karanka, whose side will look to win three in a row when Reading travel to Teesside on Sunday.
“They have played well in all the games - I don't remember one where you could say we were horrible. What matters is the results and, with this result, the confidence is good.”
Burnley lost their grip on top spot because of the defeat and manager Sean Dyche felt they had a decent shout for a penalty dismissed when Sam Vokes' cross hit the arm of George Friend in the box.
Instead Middlesbrough celebrated at the final whistle, which was noted by Dyche.
He said: “It shows how far we have come when you see the reaction of their bench. It looked like they won something more than a match, it looked like they had won the lottery at the end. I mean that sincerely. It shows how far we have come that it means that much to them.”
* Former Middlesbrough defender Gary Parkinson was a guest of honour at the Riverside yesterday and was given a touching reception by the 20,000-plus crowd before kick-off.
Parkinson had a stroke in September 2010 and has been battling to overcome Locked-In syndrome ever since. He was a guest of Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson yesterday along with his family.
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