FALTERING Middlesbrough are facing the fight of their lives to keep hold of their play-off place.
This is the verdict of manager Tony Mowbray, whose side could be out of the top six by the time they kick-off against visiting Millwall this tea-time if Brighton beat Burnley at the Amex Stadium.
The Teessiders are in grave danger of missing out on the play-offs for the second season running after an uplifting first half of the campaign, with Mowbray’s side having won just once so far in eight Championship games in 2013, taking a miserable four points from a possible 24.
Somehow, Boro remain in sixth position, but their rivals are breathing down their necks with a host of clubs, probably down to 12th-placed Charlton, currently fancying their chances of overhauling them.
Mowbray says it is not rocket science to deduce that only an upturn will enable Boro to maintain their play-off aspirations and is expecting a scrap between now and the end of the season.
Mowbray, whose side went back to basics to chisel out a 0-0 draw at Burnley on Tuesday – which ended a run of five away losses in the Championship – said: “I think we fully know now that we are in a bit of a scrap with teams around us whereas a month ago we were desperately trying to get into the top two and stay there.
“We understand that you can’t lose six out of seven games and expect to stay comfortably in the top six. We know it is not comfortable, we know other teams around us will be desperate to get in.
“And sometimes it is easier to chase, to come from the pack from mid-table, to have a target to shoot at, so they have nothing to lose.
“Yet we can take a foothold from the point in midweek and hopefully we can get more points moving forward – Millwall on Saturday becomes a big game for us to try and get three points.
“We have got Chelsea in the Cup next week but then Cardiff will be coming to us. They lost in the week, is that the start of a potential blip for them? Can we beat them at home? We have done it before.
“They are games we should be looking forward to. Hopefully our fans get behind us and together we start moving our wagon forward, to start pushing on again.”
Released Boro midfielder Kevin Thomson is back training with his first senior club, Hibernian.