Paul: Pearce Proves A Point

Paul Goddard says that Ian Pearce gave Middlesbrough their most torrid time of the season on Saturday - and that his presence up front is having a beneficial effect on Jermain Defoe.

Ian has played twice in succession up front now, and Paul says:

"I think he has given us a different dimension to our game; obviously after his first game up front where the real good chances fell to him, he unfortunately couldn't take them and people criticised a little bit.

"But he was super against Middlesbrough and Southgate and Ehiogu probably haven't had a harder game all season than they did against Ian and Jermain.

"All strikers need goals to keep their confidence up; it is what they thrive on, and Ian is no different.

"He has been working as a striker in training the last couple of weeks and I think he is really enjoying it."

Not that Paul can give him tips about copying his game in years gone by, and he says:

"He is a different kind of player to what I used to be."

Paul sees Jermain's game getting the benefit of having a big man alongside him, and he says:

"It is good for Jermain as well to have that physical presence up there; his performances in the two games have certainly been a key factor for that reason.

"He has been super; it is a great learning curve for Jermain at the moment, and he has really had to dig in deep this season.

"He is 19 or 20 and he has become our main striker; he has shouldered a lot of responsibility for a young man and has handled it very well."

It is a partnership that may well extend for some time in the continued absence of Don Hutchison and Fredi Kanoute.

"Don and Fredi are in a similar situation - they are not on the training field with the balls," says Paul.

"Steve Lomas didn't play in the reserves this week but he is training a little bit anyway."

Paul says it is difficult with a mounting injury list that includes Richard Garcia as well, and adds:

"Other clubs would look at it and say it is normal, average, but when you start with the squad size we have, and then get those injuries, it is looking pretty bare around the place, I can tell you."

"The lads were very disappointed on Saturday not to get a victory but this weekend is a fantastic game to look forward to against Manchester United - and I am sure they all are doing just that."

When Paul is asked whether he can be at least encouraged by the recent displays, even if they are not yielding the points one would have hoped for, he says:

"You can look at it like that, but we haven't got them, and you can analyse the reasons why; but the performances have been heartily received and now we just need to nail home the advantage that we are creating."