JONATHAN WOODGATE got to toast the first win of his managerial career on Teesside last night before providing a timely reality-check after a victory that left him smiling.

Despite having to withstand plenty of pressure from an attack-minded Wigan Athletic at the Riverside Stadium, the Middlesbrough head coach got to savour his first three points since succeeding Tony Pulis.

The victory was achieved courtesy of Britt Assombalonga’s 23rd minute header from Jonny Howson’s stunning delivery, ending Middlesbrough’s four match winless run under Woodgate.

The 39-year-old walked was clearly a satisfied man when the final whistle marked the end of five minutes of added time and some late attacks from the Latics, as he walked into the middle of the pitch to applaud the fans and his players.

But by the time he had emerged from the dressing room and faced the media, Woodgate had already taken a deep breath and warned that the elusive win is only the start of what he wants Middlesbrough to go on and achieve – and he does not expect it to be smooth.

“It feels great but the secret is, even when you lose, you don’t get too low and when you win don’t get too high, so stay level-headed,” said Woodgate, having had a career than has seen him play for Real Madrid, Leeds United and Newcastle United in the Champions League.

“I have said numerous times now, this is a working process and I have said to the fans, it is going to be a rocky road.

“We are trying to play in a different way, it’s important the fans go with us. There will be times where we go through a patch where we don’t win a few games, the fans stayed with us today.”

Woodgate was animated in his technical area throughout the 90 minutes, and was frustrated to have seen the number of times his players lost possession routinely.

Just when there started to be a few moans and groans from the fans, Assombalonga popped up with the header to give Middlesbrough the much-needed lift they wanted and then it was about standing firm to hold on to the lead.

Woodgate said: “In the first 12 minutes we gave six to eight balls away in our own half. We do need to improve in those areas and at times we try to do it too much. Wigan started to press us and almost scored.

“On the other side of that we did create chances, it was a fantastic ball in from Jonny Howson, who has been terrific all season and a spectacular header by Britt.

“Once you give a ball away, the crowd can moan. Then it happens. And it happens to the next one. I said at half-time to calm down, believe in yourselves, you do it every day in training, 15-yard passes concentrate.

“I said was I was not uptight, I believe in them. I said I know a victory will come sooner rather than later. It was important to feed them that confidence, they battled that out.

“I was really calm. I am focused and I know the points will come. Today wasn’t the best spectacle in the world. We played better at against Brentford and got zilch, got a point at Luton where we played better. You have to find a way to grind it out. We have to do the dirty side of the game.”

Woodgate has repeatedly spoken of how “thin” the squad he has at his disposal and he did again last night, but he is determined to make that a positive.

“I wouldn’t say it puts a limit on it (what we want to achieve), but it is a really thin squad," he said. “I believe in all my players, every single one of them, when you have a tight unit it can create a good team spirit, they are involved week in and week out. Let’s see when we have played more than five games and we are in October-November times.”

Woodgate did confirm that skipper George Friend missed the game with a repeat of the thigh injury he had to overcome in the summer. He will be assessed to determine how serious it is.