MICHAEL CARRICK claims his Middlesbrough side are peaking at the ideal time, with this afternoon's 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday having taken them to within six points of the Championship's top six.

The Teessiders’ season looked to effectively be over when they dropped to as low as 14th position in the wake of last month’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke, but they have subsequently embarked on a six-game unbeaten run that has reignited their promotion hopes.

They have closed to within six points of sixth-placed Norwich City thanks to a comfortable victory over the Owls, which was achieved through an own goal from Michael Ihiekwe and a deflected second-half strike from Isaiah Jones, and will head into this weekend’s home game with Swansea City in a buoyant mood.

“There comes a point towards the end of the season where we are where we are, and you understand that and grasp it," said Carrick. "You can then try to use that as a motivation.

“Five or six games ago, it was a bit of a case of getting back to basics and being solid and hard to beat. It was about trying to win games again, and we’ve done that. Southampton (on Good Friday) was a move in the right direction in terms of the football we want to play, and then today we’ve added to that again.

“I thought we looked a lot like the team we want to look like today, and I was pleased with that. Of course, we’ve got to keep trying to win games and see where that takes us, but the end of the season is getting closer now and while there’ll be swings week to week, I think you’ve got to embrace that at this stage.”

Carrick was especially pleased with his side’s defensive display despite the absence of a host of senior players that resulted in Jonny Howson having to play at centre-half for the second game in a row.

Boro have conceded just one goal in their last five matches, with their improved defensive performances having played a major role in their unbeaten run.

“I think we’ve defended well as a team and pressed well," said Carrick. "Different scenarios, different little tweaks of personnel, but I keep talking about the wavelengths and connections.

“Jonny has just shown his experience really, and his class. He’s stepped in and understood it straight away. I know he’s played there a few times, but I think he’s quite enjoyed that bit of a fresh challenge. You could see that, and I thought he was terrific again.”