Jordan Rhodes: Karanka not commenting on Middlesbrough link

Jordan Rhodes
Rhodes' injury-time goal for Blackburn was enough to see off Bolton on his first-team return

Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka refused to comment on speculation linking Boro with a move for Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes.

Boro were linked with Rhodes but Rovers boss Gary Bowyer played down a move before his side's 1-0 Championship win against Bolton on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old forward scored the winner to lift Rovers up to 10th.

"I'm not here to speak about speculation, I prefer to speak about my players," Karanka told BBC Tees.

"We are in this position [fourth in the Championship] because my players deserve to be in this position and have worked well up to this moment.

"I don't want to speak about players who aren't my players."

Karanka's side have undergone a relative slump in form in the last five games, with three defeats in five on the back of a run that saw them lose just once in 18 league matches.

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka's Boro have lost three of the last five after a run of just one defeat in 18

The downturn has coincided with a busy run of fixtures, with the Teessiders' FA Cup form adding to a workload that brought nine games in a month.

Pressure matches against fellow promotion hopefuls Ipswich, Derby and Bournemouth are to come in the next three games, but Boro have enjoyed a rare free midweek to prepare.

"We needed to have a week like this week, after the last month with nine games it was very difficult for everybody," said Karanka.

"We had a team that needs to train on the pitch because I felt we lost our intensity with a lot of games; we can't train on the pitch.

"We also had a lot of changes, and it's difficult to keep playing with the same intensity and I think working again this week has been very good for us."

Middlesbrough are in their sixth season outside the Premier League, and supporters are familiar with late season stutters when a top-flight return has seemed close.

In 2011-12 the club were second in the Championship on New Year's Eve, having lost just three games, but went on to finish seventh after an eight-match winless run between March and April.

The following campaign was a similar story, seeing Boro slide from third in their final game of 2012 to end up 16th with only three wins between January and the end of the season, though Karanka has faith in the current squad to avoid such a fate.

"I know my players, I trust them, I have trained with them this week and I feel all of them are very excited about the next 10 games starting with Saturday," he added.

"For that reason I can be calm."

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