Neil Warnock felt his Middlesbrough side were more like themselves as they geared up for the weekend’s game with Rovers with victory at Nottingham Forest.

Although a forced closure of the club’s Rockcliffe training ground earlier this month didn’t see any matches postponed, several players had to self-isolate, with Warnock naming a young team for the FA Cup defeat at Brentford.

That was followed up by a surprise defeat to Birmingham City last weekend, and Warnock felt on reflection that several players hadn’t fully recovered from their time away.

He made three changes for the game at the City Ground on Wednesday night where goals from Britt Assombalonga and George Saville put them fully in control before a late consolation from the hosts.

Warnock, who brought in Assombalonga, Jonny Howson and Duncan Watmore to the starting line-up, felt his side were good value for their win and should have won by more.

The victory leaves them seventh in the table, three points outside the play-off spots with a game in hand.

And Warnock said: “You could see we were at it from the first minute.

“I turned to the bench after about two minutes and said, ‘We’ll be alright tonight’. Saturday, we were so sloppy to start with. You can blame Covid and the fact we hadn’t trained properly for two weeks, but I thought we were right at it.

“We played some good stuff. The only disappointment was not scoring more goals, but we had chances and were unlucky on a few occasions. Apart from the goal, I can’t think of a shot that Marcus (Bettinelli) had to save, so we did well.

“It was professional. We were playing against a good, in-form team, so I thought all credit to them. Even the staff were saying we deserved it thoroughly.

“I didn’t think we took our foot off the pedal, we were on it all the time. It’s lovely to see that when you’re a manager. It was difficult conditions, but I thought we adapted and wanted it. The three in midfield, I thought Jonny Howson was unbelievable. I’d give him 11 out of ten.”

Victory made it five wins in their last seven matches heading into back-to-back home games against Rovers on Saturday and then one of Warnock’s former clubs, Rotherham, next Wednesday.

But the experienced Boro boss couldn’t help but look ahead to the trip to league leaders Norwich City at the end of the month, hoping to go into that Carrow Road visit unbeaten.

He added: “It’s a good start.

“We’ve got two home games now and people will say, ‘Oh, that’s easy’, but it won’t be. We might get two draws and I’d be quite happy with that. As long as we stay unbeaten now. I’m looking forward to the Norwich game (at the end of the month), me. I’m really looking forward to that.”