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Ledley King believes the team has showed its character since the unlucky defeat away to Bolton at the beginning of November.

Ledley King believes the team has showed its character since the unlucky defeat away to Bolton at the beginning of November.

It was our first away reverse and only a second defeat of the season in the Premiership at the Reebok Stadium and few could dispute that the boys definitely deserved some reward from the trip - not least because of Jermain Defoe having a goal ruled out for offside when replays proved it was not the case.

A little unbeaten run of four games has been put together since that setback, with nine points having been taken from the last three against Wigan, Sunderland and Portsmouth.

"After the defeat against Bolton we had to show what we are made of and bounce back into winning ways," considered Ledley. "We've done well since then and the only disappointment was the West Ham game where we could and should have had another win.

"The team spirit is great and we have showed great character," continued the skipper before stating the attitude of the squad is very much centred on progress.

"We are a mostly young side who are all eager to learn and do well. While we are doing well at the moment we are not getting carried away, want to take it one game at a time and keep picking up the points if we can do that.

"At the moment it is going well but it is a long season and we realise there is a lot of hard work to be done."

The boys have really had to battle it out in the last two games at home and, as mentioned before, it has been a demonstration of character to come through with the points. Ledley agrees we have yet to witness the sort of performances that saw us net five at home on three occasions last year, but he does not rule out a couple of repeats if the first goal landing in our net can be avoided.

"We haven't been playing great stuff but we will take winning all day long as it is about picking up the points," he reasoned. "If we can get the performance it is an added bonus if we beat teams well. If we keep doing what we are doing and keep working hard, it will come performance-wise.

"At the moment we are happy with the way we are going because we have had to dig deep and pull games back after going a goal down.

We've been unfortunate in the last two games because we have had two crackers scored against us, which has been hard to take

We've had to show what we're made of to bounce back from that and teams have not had too many chances against us.

"That is the way we want to keep it."

On Sunday we return to the scene of where our top six hopes were pretty much extinguished at the back end of last season. This time around, Ledley feels we go back a more complete and experienced outfit better equipped to secure a positive result.

"I think so, we've added to the squad and have got more experienced players - which has helped us this season. It will help us against Middlesbrough.

"Last season was a massive game and we fell short. With the experience we've picked up and added since then it will make it a different game. At the same time it will be a tough one and they are a team where you never know what to expect.

"There are a lot of teams like that in the league and it is about finding that consistency. On their day Middlesbrough can turn over anyone like they did against Manchester United and their forward line is always a danger with Hasselbaink, Yakubu and Viduka - who are all top players.

"If you are not on your game and they are on theirs, it will be a tough match for you."

Meanwhile, the England international said the team are taking confidence from our current position in the Premiership standings but knows the winning habit must be maintained if the benefit of a cushion is to be enjoyed in the coming weeks.

"All the players are enjoying looking at the league table at the moment and it is where we want to be at the end of the season. It is nice to be three points ahead of Bolton with a plus five goal difference and that should keep us there for an extra game.

"We want to keep pushing up though, keep picking up points and if we can pull away from the teams in sixth, seventh and eighth it will be crucial come the end of the season."