QPR face a difficult test this weekend as they come head-to-head with pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough.
The Teessiders haven't enjoyed as successful a campaign as they would have hoped, sitting in ninth place in the Championship, 11 points off the automatic promotion spots which they craved back in August.
Garry Monk looked to get the team playing expansive attacking football in the first half of the season, but as it failed to produce results Middlesbrough opted for the more effective style of Tony Pulis as they look to grind out the results needed to push for the top six.
Speaking to Evening Gazette Middlesbrough expert Anthony Vickers, he says the signs are there that Pulis is starting to make his mark.
"You can see the changes in the way he sets up.
"Under (Garry) Monk and (Aitor) Karanka the full-backs were the main attacking outlet, bombing on and putting crosses in; that’s stopped. He likes four centre-backs across the back. So it’s firmer at the back and it’s quite rigid, they haven’t let in too many goals.
"You wouldn’t look at it and think its an archetypal Tony Pulis team, but you can see the elements starting to emerge.
"It’s a working project really; with the players he’s got, it should be really effective so long as they can start taking their chances.
"If it clicks then you could see them mounting a push for the play-offs, but you suspect Tony Pulis might have one eye on next season."
Despite a more rigid structure, Vickers has picked out three players who have notably improved under Tony Pulis.
He said: "Pulis is playing with Rudy Gestede as a target man, so he’s getting all the flick-ons and the central midfielders play quite close to him to pick up the knock-downs.
"Stuart Downing has been rehabilitated into a real creative force and Jonny Howson who had a sticky start but works very well with Stewy, so in midfield they’re alright.
"We’ve struggled to take our chances chances; Middlesbrough had four one-on-ones last week and failed to hit the target, so that’s the problem area. They’re actually creating quite a lot going forward."
However if one man is going to make the difference on Saturday, Vickers thinks it'll be speedy winger Adama Traore.
He said: "Adama is like a bullet-train. It’s like watching a Rugby League player; he puts his head down and just surges forward and there’s nothing that you can do to stop them.
"Last year it wasn’t so much a problem for teams because he kept on running into touch, but this year he’s developed more of a final product, so he’s passing the ball more and getting crosses in the box.
He’s becoming far more effective so that’s the main creative force, but it hasn’t quite gelled yet.
"If he’s on form, he’s unplayable. He’s really exciting to watch; a little unpredictable but Pulis is kind of putting an arm around him and he’s constantly coaching him from the touchline – it’s like training a puppy!"
Anthony Vickers' predicted Boro XI: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter, Howson, Traore, Downing, Braithwaite, Gestede.
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