MIDDLESBROUGH manager Chris Wilder appreciated that his young players were thrown into a cauldron today at Field Mill with very little game time under their belt as they helped Boro to a battling FA Cup win over Mansfield.

The game finished 3-2 against the League Two side with Nathan Wood, Joe Gibson, Caolan Boyd-Munce, Williams Kokolo and Josh Coburn all starting the game. Boyd-Munce scored on his debut to put Boro two up just 15 minutes into the game.

Wilder’s squad has been stretched in the last week or so following a Covid outbreak in the squad. The manager saw the game as an opportune time to test the waters on his young players. While there were some ropey moments during the game as Mansfield battled back to level the tie, he was happy with the way they handled the occasion and there will be a lot for them take away from the game.

Wilder said: “I’ve got to say they (Mansfield) played and we can play better of course but you’re chucking in Joe Gibson, Caolan (Boyd-Munce) coming in to training yesterday and starting, Williams Kokolo not being involved and then putting the shirt on with no preparation. They are not excuses, they’re facts.

“They’ve had no preparation in terms of team shape or whatever against a team that’s on a fabulous run and we’ve got everything to lose.

“Even if we were at our strongest or our best, this would have been a difficult afternoon. We talked about it before. We weren’t so it was even going to be more difficult.

“They are on a great run. Any Championship team would have struggled today. We had a fight and a struggle to get through but eventually we got it.

After the team extended their winning run to five games in all competitions, Wilder added: “Young Gibbo makes his debut. He runs out of steam. Sometimes people have got to realise that the intensity that professional football is and how much it is. You can do all the training and you can have a good work ethic and put the conditioning in but nothing is the same as playing in a cup tie.

“For them young boys, that’s an incredible experience for them today.

“They had a couple of chances first half. They grew into the half. We had one just before half time that we could have took it away from them but they were always going to show the spirit that they showed.

“I’m not surprised that they got back into it and they’ve had chances before that. We rode our luck through that period but we didn’t defend the two goals very well.

“The boys got a free header which is a great goal from their point of view and we just need to see a run out on the second one. Poor goal from our point of view, great goal from theirs.

“I talked about it in the changing rooms at the start of the game, it’s about attitude. The attitude was good. We just run out of legs and options as to what we can do.”

The victory puts Wilder’s side in the hat for round four with the draw coming on Monday. However, Boro return to league action next week when they host Reading at the Riverside Stadium where they will hope to have a number of players back who have been serving a period of self isolation due to Covid infections.