After losing two out of three games at the end of February, Middlesbrough are back on track, but March has some tough fixtures against promotion rivals.
Tuesday night's 3-0 win over struggling Millwall eased the tension around the Riverside Stadium, as a faltering run in February threatened to de-rail the club's promotion bid. Manager Aitor Karanka saw his side lose to both Leeds at home and Sheffield Wednesday away in the last week of the month, with a crucial home win over Bolton in between. Now 'Boro must face three of the top six teams in a month that will shape their destiny.
Goals from Chelsea-loanee Patrick Bamford, Garcia Martinez and substitute Jelle Vossen comfortably saw off Millwall's challenge in a one-sided game which saw the home team return to the top of the Sky Bet Championship table, and set up a challenging period for the Teessiders.
Following the game Karanka brushed off the significance of returning to the top spot, as he told the Teesside Gazette: “Whether we are first, second or third is not important now. The best thing is that we have one game less and three more points."
Saturday sees Middlesbrough travel to Dougie Freedman's resurgent Nottingham Forest, before a trio of fixtures that could make or break the campaign. On 14th March, 'Boro entertain Ipswich Town at the Riverside before consecutive away fixtures, midweek at Derby County and then on Saturday 21st at Bournemouth's Goldsands Stadium.
With Derby and Bournemouth each faltering in recent weeks and with Norwich making a strong push under new manager Alex Neil, if Middlesbrough remain unbeaten, taking points off their rivals in the process, it will leave them in a commanding position to finish off the job in the season's run-in.