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Chris Wilder says Middlesbrough are ‘miles off’ and targets more new signings

Middlesbrough v Marseille – Pre Season Friendly – Riverside Stadium
(Image credit: Will Matthews)

Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder felt his side’s 3-2 defeat at QPR showed they should not be regarded as promotion contenders.

Boro were three down at Loftus Road before mounting a fightback.

Wilder believes the squad needs to be strengthened before a promotion challenge can be sustained.

“We’re all trying. It’s just such a difficult market to deal in. We’re all trying to do the best deals and get the right players,” he said.

“We’re still miles off. People that commentate on the Championship are putting us up there, maybe because of historical things, the size of the club, big crowds and what managers have done in the past.

“But, as a group, I think we understand there’s still an awful lot of work that needs to be done for us to be talked of in the same breath as a Sheffield United, West Brom or a Norwich or Watford or Burnley that have been tipped to have a successful season.”

Chris Willock, back from injury, netted a brilliant opener and goals from Jimmy Dunne and Lyndon Dykes put Rangers in control before Matt Crooks and Marcus Forss netted for Boro.

Wilder criticised his team’s defending for two of QPR’s goals but insisted keeper Zack Steffen was fouled in the build-up to the second – the ball bounced in off Dunne after Steffen was unable to collect a corner.

Wilder said: “When you give good players a handout, which we did – charity, aided by some ridiculous refereeing decisions – it’s always going to be a difficult afternoon.

“There was a comment by the referee to a member of my staff at half-time that the goalkeeper has to be stronger.

“The referee doesn’t (shouldn’t) have an opinion in terms of coaching or what the goalkeeper needs to do. Especially when the goalkeeper’s facing towards the corner and somebody behind him puts a hand on his back and pushes him.”

QPR boss Michael Beale savoured his first win since taking over and was full of praise for Willock.

The former Arsenal trainee, badly missed when sidelined last season, strode forward from deep, fended off two challenges and sent an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net.

“What a goal. He’s picked the ball up just inside our half, travelled 20 or 30 yards and put it in the top corner,” Beale said.

“We know how good he is at this level and he brings the best out of others. We were missing him and Luke Amos and felt they would make a difference – and they certainly made a difference.

“I don’t think people realise the effort it took for Chris to get through 70 minutes. But it was important we had him on the pitch, because he impacted the game – and what a fantastic goal.”

Beale hopes the win will help restore confidence among a squad which was in the thick of the promotion race under his predecessor Mark Warburton last season before a spectacular slump.

“As a young team we need to take confidence from it, because from January down this young changing room has been hit from pillar to post,” he said.

“In the first half we did a lot of good things and then we just got a bit nervous. That might just be eradicated with time together.

“We beat a very good Middlesbrough team, which shows that we’re a good team ourselves. We’ll stay under the radar and just keep working.”

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