JONATHAN WOODGATE expects Middlesbrough’s transfer activity to crank into gear in the next couple of weeks – but the new head coach is adamant he wants to continue giving every member of the current squad a chance to be part of his plans.

Woodgate claimed the first victory of his managerial career last night as goals from Jonny Howson, Ashley Fletcher and Marvin Johnson secured a 3-1 friendly win at Gateshead.

A host of young players got a run-out at the International Stadium, plugging the gaps that have been created by the departure of John Obi Mikel, Mo Besic, Stewart Downing and Jordan Hugill since the end of last season.

Woodgate is determined to give the club’s young players a chance, but he also accepts there is a need to add to the experienced core, with the recruitment operation set to swing into action before the end of the month.

“There’ll be some movement,” said the Boro boss. “In football, you have to keep freshening things up. With the Financial Fair Play rules, I’ve said that there’ll be players who come and go, and we have to work the market really well.

“We’ve got a recruitment set-up there, and they know what’s going on. They’ve got their finger on the pulse, and I’ve got plenty of belief in them. We’ll see how many we get in – it’s difficult to say for definite at the minute because they’re not all fit yet.

“I want to keep looking at them because I want to make sure everyone gets a chance. I’ve only had two games, so I want to keep going with them and giving them more confidence because you never know where you’re going to go from there.”

As well as assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the squad he inherited from Tony Pulis, Woodgate is also trying to introduce a new playing style ahead of the start of the new Championship campaign.

Much has been made of the switch to a more positive, possession-based style in attack, but Woodgate has spent much of the pre-season period so far working on what he wants his players to do when they do not have the ball.

“In terms of winning the ball back higher up the pitch, that (the display against Gateshead) was what I wanted,” he said. “We need to work on some of the passing, getting in between the lines when they drop deep. At the Riverside, you are going to get teams that camp in, so we need to find ways of creating more chances against teams like that.

“It’s the intensity of getting the ball back I’m looking for. When we give it away, I want us to be in positions where we can win it back high up the pitch. I don’t want my teams to drop, I want them to really press and win the ball back high up the pitch so we’ve got numbers up there to score goals. That’s how I’ll be looking to play.”

Last night’s game provided an early opportunity to glimpse Woodgate’s new philosophy in practice, although the absence of a number of senior players made it difficult to draw any firm conclusions about how things are likely to look come the start of the new season.

Woodgate set his side up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Howson at right-back and Ryan Shotton partnering Aden Flint at centre-half. Howson spent a chunk of last season playing as a right wing-back, but Woodgate is clearly pondering using him as an orthodox full-back in a back four rather than a midfielder.

With Adam Clayton spending the first half on the bench, it was also interesting to see Lewis Wing stationed as a deep-lying midfielder, with Paddy McNair and Marcus Tavernier playing ahead of him. Wing’s attacking prowess was evident on a number of occasions last season, but perhaps Woodgate is considering using the former Shildon midfielder in a slightly different role this term.

With Britt Assombalonga just having finished his international duties with DR Congo and Martin Braithwaite still working his way back up to full speed after returning to training later than most of his colleagues, Fletcher started as Boro’s lone striker.

He had a first-half effort rightly ruled out for offside – no VAR controversies at the International Stadium – and looked sharp and enthusiastic as he opened his pre-season account in the second half. For all that his Boro career has not really taken off, he could well be an important player this season.

Fletcher forced an early save from Gateshead’s trialist goalkeeper with a sharp near-post shot, but it was the penultimate minute of the first half before Boro claimed the lead. Their breakthrough came in a scruffy fashion, with Howson rolling into an unguarded net from 35 yards after Gateshead’s keeper and centre-halves made a complete hash of dealing with a long ball over the top.

Boro’s lead was wiped out just three minutes into the second half, with Connor Thomson slotting home from the penalty spot after Shotton was adjudged to have committed a foul following a scramble from a corner.

However, the Teessiders regained their advantage in the 66th minute, with Fletcher controlling Clayton’s long ball over the top before hammering home, and sealed their success in the closing stages as Johnson found the net from long range via the inside of the right-hand post.

Gateshead (4-5-1): Trialist; Nicholson, Lees (Nelson 46), Williamson, Barrow; Thomson, Oliver (Forbes 46), Agnew, Olley, O’Donnell; Preston (Trialist 25).

Middlesbrough (4-1-4-1): Randolph (James 46); Howson (Spence 46), Shotton (Stubbs 72), Flint (Wood 72), Reading (Dale 72); Wing (Clayton 64); Wearn (Malley 64), McNair (Saville 46), Tavernier (Armstrong 64), Coulson (Johnson 46); Fletcher (Gestede 72).