Michael Carrick's delight as Alex Gilbert takes his Middlesbrough opportunity at Cardiff

Michael Carrick was delighted to see Alex Gilbert take his Middlesbrough opportunity at Cardiff City - though the emphatic finish he produced to score his first Boro goal was no surprise to the Boro boss.

Gilbert was handed his first Boro start for the 4-1 victory over Cardiff in South Wales, wrapping up the Boro scoring in the game with a controlled and well-hit finish from the edge of the box. It capped a positive performance all round for the forward, who has struggled for game time for much of the season.

To put that into context, Gilbert was withdrawn after 74 minutes at the Cardiff City Stadium, which, in Boro's penultimate game of the season, more than doubled the amount of Championship minutes he'd previously played. Having previously had to make do with short cameos, Carrick handed the 22-year-old his first start after his assist against Leeds United on Monday evening, and he was delighted the decision paid off.

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The Boro boss said: “There were mixed reasons behind the decision [to start him]. It’s not judgement day, by any stretch. He deserved an opportunity. He’s trained so well and applied himself so well. He’s definitely improved as the season has gone on, and grown and matured too.

"That’s what Alex can do. We know he’s got goals in him; he’s a terrific finisher. So it was not surprising to see him stick that away. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic finish. He’s had good impact when he’s come on recently, so it felt like the next step for him and he took it really well, so we’re really pleased for him.

"As you’d expect [he wanted to impress]. The boys went about it in the right way in general today and showed good attitude and mentality towards the game."

On the back of taking his big opportunity, Gilbert is likely to get another start next weekend too when Boro host Watford at the Riverside in their final game of this season. Hoping for far more next term, he'll no doubt be hungry for more success in that one.