NEIL WARNOCK hailed Duncan Watmore as “a gem” after the injury-plagued forward scored his first two Middlesbrough goals in his side’s 2-1 win over Swansea City.

Watmore joined Boro as a free agent last month, having been released by Sunderland earlier in the summer after Phil Parkinson opted not to offer him a contract at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland’s loss has proved Middlesbrough’s gain, and after recovering from two cruciate ligament injuries that sidelined him for the best part of two years, Watmore will be hoping last night’s match-winning double signals a much-needed change of fortune.

“Duncan’s a gem of a lad,” said Warnock. “He’s come in, and even though we didn't pay him for a few weeks he wanted to come here.

“He got good offers financially to go away to all sorts of places – he could have gone to India or South Africa - but he loved it here. It was great to give him a short-term deal.

“There’s probably only him in our team that would have scored the goal. It’s not easy going through like that. All credit to him, I thought he worked his socks off.”

Watmore was only handed a deal to the middle of January when he signed last month, and while Warnock insists it is too early to start talking about a longer-term contract, there has to be a good chance the 26-year-old will be retained for at least the remainder of the season.

“It's only one game,” said Warnock. “Let's wait and see a little bit. He was the type of player we were looking at, that's why I asked about him. We haven't got anyone like that.

“We're looking for good wide players, in his case he can play up front as well. He gives us a bit of both. He's responsible, he works hard, in training he covers more ground than anyone else.

“He deserves tonight, we gave him a round of applause in the dressing room. He deserves it for what he's been through, the horrendous injuries he's been through. He'll go home and he'll be on cloud nine tonight.”

The win takes Boro to within two points of the play-off places and four points of the top of a very congested table, and having watched his side outplay one of their promotion rivals, Warnock, who celebrated his 72nd birthday on Tuesday, was happy to start training his sights on the top of the league.

“We’re a good team,” said the Boro boss. “I said that before the game – they are a good team, but so are we. At times, when we play and all come out like that, we’re as good as anything in the league. It’s maintaining that though.

“They’ve done that week in, week out for a couple of years now, Swansea. They don’t change much. Whereas we are hot and cold, aren’t we? We lose to a team like Huddersfield, no disrespect.

“We shouldn’t have lost that, but it was a great response. The fans will have loved watching that on television won’t they? It was gripping for me, I loved every minute of it. I said at half-time, ‘Wow, I’m enjoying this lads – don’t let’s disappoint now and have a second half like we had at Huddersfield. Let’s bloody have a go’. And I thought in every department, we did well.”