NEIL WARNOCK praised teenage centre-half Nathan Wood after the Middlesbrough youngster’s first Championship start ended in a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest.

Wood, an 18-year-old product of Middlesbrough’s academy who is the son of former Boro full-back Dean Gordon, replaced illness victim Dael Fry as Warnock’s side climbed into the play-off positions for the first time this season.

Playing alongside Paddy McNair at centre-half, Wood helped contain a Forest side that failed to record a single effort on target, with Warnock having been hugely impressed by his performance.

“He (Wood) knew he would be playing yesterday really. We went through a few things yesterday because I thought it was highly unlikely that Dael would be okay.

“We could have brought Jonny Howson back and started Djed (Spence), but I just thought we needed (Anfernee) Dijksteel and (Marc) Bola against their really good attacking players.

“Last time Woody played at Plymouth in pre-season, he did ever so well. He deserved it. He’s trained well, although he could probably have trained a bit better to make sure I put him in, he’s been a bit sloppy on odd days, but I’m sure that will give him a lift.

“We gave him a round of applause in the dressing room afterwards. It was his first full game, and he deserved it. He did really well. He made one great block when it looked as though the lad was going to pull the trigger. He slid in well, and I thought his all-round performance was great.”

Fry has been struggling with a sickness bug this week, but Warnock expects the centre-half to be available for Tuesday’s trip to Blackburn Rovers.

“Dael was a lot better this morning, but still not quite right so it wasn’t worth risking him. I’ve told him to try to get ready for Tuesday.

“You know what it’s like with sickness and diarrhoea it just weakens you. He’s had it for four days. He had cramp the other night and played with it, but he’s just had diarrhoea since. He was a lot better after the doc went to see him today. I spoke to him about 11am and he just wished us all the best and I said I’ll hopefully see him on Monday.”

Today’s victory lifted Boro to fifth position in the table, with the Teessiders scoring a decisive goal in the final ten minutes for the second time in a week.

“I said at half-time it was a similar thing to Coventry,” said Warnock. “It took us 80 minutes to score then and I said it might take us 90 today, but there is a goal there if we keep playing like we are.

“We can still step it up another notch, but they’re a good side when you let them play, so we had to make sure we didn’t let them play. I thought there were a lot of pluses. Dijksteel and Bola were super against two really good wide players.”