Middlesbrough boss Garry Monk says his side are still very much a work in progress ahead of Preston North End’s trip to the Riverside Stadium on Saturday.
Having left Leeds in the summer, the 38-year-old has seen Boro pick up six points from their opening four Championship games as he plots an immediate return to the Premier League.
Monk’s men bounced back from a 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest last Saturday with a 3-0 win over Scunthorpe in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night, a game watched by Preston boss Alex Neil.
“We’re progressing and there’s still a long way to go to get to the level I think we’re capable of,” Monk said.
“But in all the games so far you can see what we’re trying to do.
“The effort and commitment has to be number one, and that has pleased me so far.”
Both of the wins so far – 2-0 against Burton and 1-0 against Sheffield United – have come at the Riverside, a stadium where North End are yet to taste victory in four attempts.
“The Riverside has been good to us and we need to keep that going,” Monk said.
“Of course we’ve had away games we want to improve on, but we’ll take each game as it comes.”
In the visiting dugout this Saturday will be a man Monk knows well.
The Boro boss played alongside PNE manager Neil at Barnsley back in the 2003-04 season.
He has been impressed with what he’s seen from his former team mate since his arrival at Deepdale and knows his side will be in for a tough afternoon.
“They’ve had a very good start,” Monk said.
“I know Alex very well and he’s a very good manager.
“They’ve started really well, and like every game, we know it’s going to be difficult, very competitive.
“We had a good result on Tuesday, which was a good response to losing against Forest.
“We want to take the positives from that and finish with a good result before the international break.”
Monk’s bid to take the Teessiders swiftly back to the top flight has been aided by significant investment in the transfer market.
Britt Assombalonga’s £15million arrival from Nottingham Forest grabbed plenty of headlines and the all-action frontman has made a bright start.
Others could follow before the window shuts on August 31, a deal agreed in principle for Birmingham defender Ryan Shotton while a bid has been knocked back for Brentford forward Jota.
“We’ve had really good communication, and that will continue until the end of the window to get the squad we want going forward,” Monk said when asked about the final days of the window.
“We’ve done the bulk of the work and had a successful window but we’re hoping to bring in one or two more.
“We’ll be linked with a lot of names but it’s in the hands of the club.”