Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has praised defenders Robert Huth and Chris Riggott for their efforts in the 4-1 victory against Watford last weekend.
The duo stepped in for the suspended Emanuel Pogatetz and hamstring injury victim Jonathan Woodgate, with both Huth and Riggott having suffered a frustrating campaign at the Riverside.
Southgate said: "Robert came to us with an injury, which was not an ideal situation.
"He then got back into the side and unfortunately picked up another long-term injury just before Christmas.
"It has been very frustrating for him, but it is great for us that, with Emanuel suspended, we have got the likes of Robert and Chris to step into the fold."
Meanwhile, Southgate has challenged his players to make sure of Premiership survival by beating Aston Villa next weekend.
"We might have enough now but whether we have or not we've got a game against Aston Villa which we want to win," he told the club's official website.
"I would have thought that would guarantee us a place in the league next year, which is your first target achieved. From there it could also put us into the top half of the table and then you can push on."