DESPITE suffering late frustration against Leeds United, John Obi Mikel is convinced Middlesbrough have already shown they have what it takes to make a sustained push for a top two spot under Tony Pulis.

A strange week on Teesside came to an end with a 1-1 draw against automatic promotion contenders Leeds on Saturday, when only a Kalvin Phillips header in the 11th minute of added time prevented Boro from winning.

It was perceived to be a hard-earned draw in many corners of the Riverside, given the way an effective Middlesbrough played well but could have conceded more after half-time had it not been for some excellent defending, goalkeeping and poor finishing from the Whites.

The outcome, ahead of Wednesday’s trip to promotion battlers Sheffield United, still should have boosted confidence because Middlesbrough played as well as they have all season at the Riverside to rattle Leeds.

While last Tuesday’s FA Cup exit at Newport County raised fears and increased pressure on the players and manager to deliver a result, it should also be remembered how well they played to secure an away day victory at well-fancied West Brom last Saturday too.

Mikel said: “We have to keep going, we have a very good team with a very good manager who we all believe in. We all know what he wants us to give on the pitch. If you give that he is happy. We have to keep going, we know we can achieve what we want.

“We know this is part of a run of three massive games in a row, two are out of the way, and we have one more. Every game from now on will be tough. We need to go in every game and look to win, unfortunately we didn’t get three points against Leeds.

“It’s a good sign when you look at the last two league games and we have got four points from those games. It is a good mentality to have by looking at it that way.

“We wanted three points but we didn’t get those. We have to keep going, believing that we can beat anyone in this league. Come the end of the season we have to believe we can achieve what we want.”

Sheffield United will be no pushovers on Wednesday. They are best placed to mount a challenge on top two Norwich and Leeds and sit four points clear of Middlesbrough so will not be in the mood for conceding points.

The Blades were rampant at Aston Villa on Friday night when they burst into a three-goal lead only to be pegged back by Dean Smith’s side and the game ended 3-3.

Mikel might have spent his career in the Premier League with Chelsea, but he has soon realised the size of the challenge facing clubs wanting to climb out of the Premier League even after just two appearances at the lower level.

Mikel said: “They are a very good side. I watched it. We have to go there and face a tough game and believe we can win the game. With the players in this team we know we can. 

“It’s a tough division, much tougher than the Premier League when you look at it properly. I have to keep going and I will give 100 per cent.

“We knew we had a point to prove against Leeds. The Newport game was one of those games. We wanted to win and the lads wanted to win but unfortunately we didn’t get the win and we knew Leeds would be a tougher game against a very good side. 

“We knew we had to put in a good performance for the fans, for the club, for everybody. We wanted to get all three points but we will look back on it and this will be one point against a very good team before facing Sheffield United.”

Middlesbrough took the lead in the 47th minute when former northern league midfielder Lewis Wing struck his fourth goal of the season.

The 23-year-old has shown in a short of space of time he has the talent and mindset to be a real force at Championship level.

Wing is busy around the pitch, looks to get on the ball and also likes to make things happen in the final third and that is what Middlesbrough have been crying out for under Pulis, which is why he has successfully and deservedly enjoying a run in the team. 

Mikel, who can include winning the Premier League and Champions League among other successes on his CV, said: “He looks to me a very good player. I don’t know how old he is but if he keeps going like this he will be a top, top player.

“When I watch him play and when I watch him in training, I see he is a good player. He got a good goal and it is a shame he had to come off. He looks a good player to me.”

Wing will be assessed in the next 48 hours to determine the extent of the groin problem which forced him off in the second half against Leeds. It would be a huge blow if he was to miss the trip to Bramall Lane given his importance now to the team. 

Nigerian midfielder Mikel is another who will be closely monitored. He had not played for three months before his arrival as a free agent last month and yet he has soon settled back into the groove.

The 31-year-old has looked as composed as ever in the middle for Middlesbrough and he got through his first full game against Leeds without looking tired. Pulis is wary of burning him out given his extended break after leaving Chinese football behind.

Mikel, smiling, said: “We will see if I am OK for Wednesday, I need an ice pack, treatment, and see what happens.

“I am really enjoying it here, in a fantastic dressing room, at a fantastic club. I have enjoyed it so far and come the end of the season hopefully we can achieve what we want to achieve.

“Since I have been to this club, I have always said I will not be an individual player, I always want to play for the team. 

“I always like to give 110 per cent for the team, I will always put the team and club first. If the team has a good performance I will have a good performance, that’s how I look at it.”

Fans will struggle to remember a time when Mikel actually gave the ball away during his three appearances so far and he has brought an extra edge and dimension to the way they play.

But he does think the talk should not just be about him because he has been hugely impressed with the midfielders he has had alongside him; like Wing, Jonny Howson and George Saville on Saturday.

“They are good players. All the team are good players. All the team,” he said. “We play together as a team, the good thing about this club is we don’t really have any big time Charlie players. We all work together as a team. 

“If we lose, we lose together as a team, if we win, we win together as a team. George (Saville) I remember from Chelsea. He has developed as a much better player and Jonny just keeps doing what he does, running and running,  They are all comfortable and I enjoy playing with all of them.”