Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate hailed his stand-in defensive heroes who secured his side's first away win of the year against Wigan at the JJB Stadium.
Injuries forced Southgate to call in Chris Riggott and bring Jon Grounds back from a loan spell at Norwich but the result was a rare clean sheet and three points thanks to Jeremie Aliadiere's late winner.
Southgate said: "We were excellent across the back five. It's the type of game where centre-halves get the opportunity to stand out and they certainly did that.
"Our mentality going into the game was different and you could sense a determination about them. The irony is we've played much better football in our last two games and taken nothing.
"We said we had to keep doing the right things which we did defensively, then take our chances when they come. We managed to finish one of them today and that was the important thing."
Southgate also paid tribute to Aliadiere, who notched his first league goal of the season at the crucial moment and deflected some of the criticism which has been building about his recent performances.
"It was important for Jeremie to get off the mark and getting the winner is always special," said Southgate.
"Jeremie is always a threat but sometimes players don't have enough belief in themselves - they had that belief."
Wigan boss Steve Bruce declared his side had been "well and truly mugged" but admitted he could have few complaints after his side failed to take advantage of a series of chances.
Bruce said: "It's not quite right but often in football you don't get what you deserve. I don't think our 'keeper's touched the ball, let alone made a save, but there you go. We've been caught with a horrible sucker punch at the end."
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