Middlesbrough must show same fight against relegation rivals - Jonny Howson

JONNY HOWSON admits that Middlesbrough’s commitment and drive shown against former club Leeds United left him with a bittersweet feeling.

Riverside encounter: Leeds United's Helder Costa battles with Boro's Jonny Howson. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Facing marquee opposition, Boro produced an improved and spirited display which contrasted markedly with their pitiful recent efforts against Barnsley and Luton – games against direct rivals which truly mattered in terms of their present situation.

The 31-year-old acknowledged the ‘free hit’ nature of the game against his home-town side, riding high at the top end of the Championship – with Boro maybe not expected to get anything and the pressure lessened psychologically.

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The senior professional in Howson is also very much wise to the notion that performances in less glamorous fixtures between now and May 2 will ultimately determine Boro’s fate.

The former Leeds captain, speaking after Boro’s 1-0 reverse, remarked: “Performance-wise, I thought it was fairly good – playing against who I believe is the best team in the league.

“We gave it a right good go and going on the second half, we could have got something. That commitment and effort was there to be seen.

“But it is okay doing it against Leeds where there is a big crowd and atmosphere. They take care of themselves.

“It is only natural and there is a bit more of a buzz when you are playing the bigger games and that’s the difference.

“It is in those other games, certainly going on recent weeks, where we needed to show that same commitment and drive.

“I believe if we do that in the games we have got left this season, we will be fine.

“The Championship is a long, hard slog and if you take your foot off the gas for one or two games, you get found out whoever you are playing and we have possibly done that over the past few weeks.”

Results elsewhere mean that Boro are now out of the bottom three on goal difference only and they could find themselves in the drop zone when they host Nottingham Forest on Monday.

It is a far cry from New Year’s Day when Boro’s win at Preston saw them move 10 points clear of the relegation positions and while Howson alludes to their position being a shock to the system, he adds a caveat.

He said: “You would naturally say so after the Christmas and New Year period. But I have been around this league for a fair few years and this can happen.

“So it is not shock in terms of what can happen.”