Stewart Downing says he's been pleased with the club's start to the season and believes the squad are yet to hit top form in the Championship.

Boro won seven games on the bounce during August and September in a run that propelled Aitor Karanka's side to second in the table.

Defeat at Reading before the international break means that the Royals are now just two points behind the Teessiders, but Downing is confident the results will continue to roll in when the Championship resumes.

"It's gone quite well considering I don't think we've hit top form yet," said Downing when asked for his assessment of the season so far. 

"We've done well in patches but we've been ruthless in games. Some games we haven't played that well and won and some games we've played well and got a draw. 

"It's been a bit up and down but I think once we hit top form and get everyone back fit and playing in a settled squad we'll be fine. 

"We're in a good position at the minute. Obviously losing to Reading wasn't great to go into an international break but we have a lot of games coming up this month. 

"We need to go on another run and start to pull away from teams and the manager has said we need to get as many points as early as possible."

Boro dismantled Bolton Wanderers in the first home game of the season with a performance that fired the squad into pole position as one the bookies' favourites for promotion.

The midfielder admits those performances will not come week in, week out, but Downing believes keeping a fully fit squad would put Boro in good stead to win promotion this season. 

"I think Bolton was our best performance so far," he said. "The way we played was fluid and fast and the game was over in 20 minutes. 

"We can do that to teams and of course it's not going to be like that every week. Bolton maybe played in to our hands a little bit in that game and attacked us whereas other teams - even Reading - will defend. 

"Keep the strikers fit and I think we've got a great chance."