NEIL WARNOCK was delighted with the way Middlesbrough’s players responded to his urgings as he made a winning start to his Teesside reign courtesy of a 2-0 victory at Stoke City.

Goals from Ashley Fletcher and Marcus Tavernier ensured Warnock became the first Middlesbrough manager to win his first game since Bryan Robson in the 1990s.

The victory lifted Boro two points clear of the relegation zone, and provided Warnock with plenty of cause for optimism as he looks to guide his new club to safety in the remaining seven games of the season.

Warnock said: “You never know (what’s going to happen) in football. I’ve been in the game a long time. I’ve been to clubs and lost the first two or three games, but you’ve always got to stick with your principles really.

“With the way we played, I would have been quite happy today whatever the result was, if I’m honest. It was great to get the goals, but what I really liked was the way we died at the end to keep our goal intact, the way we flung bodies there and won headers. That’s what I like about football, and footballers.

“The lads have just worked hard. We’ve had three days with them and worked very hard on how we wanted them to play. We tried to use the talent that we’ve got in the squad and it was great to see it come off, I thought we deserved to win.

“I thought we could have put it to bed by half-time really, so obviously it was nice to get the second goal. I think the lads have enjoyed it. Nobody likes it when a manager leaves, but you’ve just got to get on with it when there’s only eight games to go.”

Warnock made six changes from the side that started Jonathan Woodgate’s final game in charge seven days earlier, and admits he was determined to get more energy into his team, especially in the wide positions.

He said: “I wanted energy really. I looked at the game last week, and with (Hayden) Coulson out injured, I wanted to go with the energy. Marvin (Johnson) and Djed (Spence) have both impressed me in the few days I’ve had. They’ve given everything, and I thought, ‘Why not?’

“With the two centre-halves, Dael (Fry) was touch and go whether he could play, but he came through yesterday. Jonny Howson, you can play him anywhere, can’t you really? He sat in, and I thought (George) Saville did a great job today because he had to go to the right-back (position) a lot as well to help out.

“I thought it was a good team performance, with the front three, I thought Britt (Assombalonga) and Fletch (Ashley Fletcher) were unbelievable. It was Robbo’s (Patrick Roberts) first game since January, and he gave us an hour.”