Middlesbrough Manager Acknowledges Relegation Battle

Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick has acknowledged that his side are now in a relegation battle following their disappointing 2-0 defeat against Stoke City yesterday.

The result means that the Teesside club have now lost four of their last five outings and although 14th, they now sit just six points above the drop zone. Their recent dip in form also means that a promotion push looks out of the question, with 12 points between them and sixth-placed Hull City.

It’s been a topsy-turvy campaign for Middlesbrough. A dreadful start left them bottom of the Championship in September, but a run of six successive wins followed to lift them to the fringes of the play-offs.

A top six finish had been the target and with the division remaining incredibly compact until the beginning of last month, it appeared as if they were in contention to earn a spot in the end-of-season promotion lottery for the second successive season. A run of two draws and two defeats was halted last month with an impressive win over table-toppers Leicester City, although that proved to be a false dawn and it has been followed by losses against two teams at the wrong end of the table.

Those fighting to avoid the drop into League One have picked up form in recent weeks and although unlikely, Boro appear to have entered the conversation. It was a question posed to Carrick yesterday in the aftermath of their latest loss:

“We have to be wary of the next game and picking up the next win as soon as we can and performing well and getting the right result,” the former Manchester United coach told The Northern Echo. “That’s the only focus for me. We have a cluster of games coming up over the next 10 days or so that we have to look forward to and attack. It’s an opportunity to put things right.

“It doesn’t change, honestly for me. We’re aware of it (a relegation battle), definitely. But the next game is always the one. We talk about the confidence and the belief, and of course it becomes a bit where you want that next result to come quickly for you. But in terms of the league table, it doesn’t change how we go into the next game.

“We go into the next game always with the intention of winning it. Wherever you are in the league, you’re always trying to win the next game. But there is a little understanding where we’re at at the minute and we’ll look at that for Wednesday night.

“The emphasis doesn’t change. It’s just on the next game and always is. But it’s vital now that we get back to picking up results and that will help with a lot of things. It snowballs quite quickly in both directions, so we need to pick up wins and we’ve got opportunities to do that pretty soon.”

Middlesbrough host play-off-chasing Norwich City on Wednesday night before travelling to Queens Park Rangers in what must be viewed as a must-win game.

Writer’s View

It’s been a season which has only ever threatened to get going for Middlesbrough, although talk of relegation may be a bit premature. A six point gap doesn’t seem like much, but their league position does mean they have more breathing space than their tally suggests.

They have played less games than everyone in the division – except Birmingham City – and will be confident that they won’t be dragged into the dog fight. However, they need to start picking up points and next weekend’s trip to QPR will give us a good idea of how the rest of their season will pan out.

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