MICHAEL Carrick has challenged his players to regain their killer touch ahead of tomorrow night’s visit of Preston North End.

The Boro manager issued the rallying call after a topsy-turvy trip to Ashton Gate that saw the Teessiders return home empty-handed despite bossing much of the contest.

Carrick has told his players to make sure there is no repeat of that reversal during a potentially pivotal week in the promotion race which will end with a trip to high-flying Leeds on Saturday. 

“I don't know if we’ve got an advantage over our rivals because of our experience of pushing for promotion last season,” Carrick told reporters.

“We just try to do what we do and that means striving for consistency all the time, whether that’s in periods of a whole game or from match to match and that's the key. 

“We’re all aware of the standards we need to maintain and the heights we’re capable of reaching – whether that’s in terms of bursts within games or putting a run together.

“And that will give us a lot confidence going forwards but it's a case of doing that more often and keeping the game when you’ve got it where you want to go on and finish it off to keep the run going.

“That’s the challenge we all face but we know what we’re capable of and we showed that for spells against Bristol City and that’s what we’ve got to be striving to do more and more as the games go on.”


Carrick also sang the praises of  Matt Crooks whose fourth goal this season capped an outstanding personal performance in the West Country. 

“Crooksy is a really important player for us and there’s a lot more to his game than just being a hard-working player and being a physical presence,” Carrick said.

“He showed that again in Bristol but he’s produced lots of big moments for us while I’ve been at the club.

“He’s been really effective for us this season and so things are going well for him and long may that continue.”