MIDDLESBROUGH are hoping for a spot of deja vu against opponents Brighton this afternoon to finally end any lingering relegation fears for the chastened Teessiders.
Ninth-placed Boro head into the encounter with the Seagulls on an atrocious run of form, having won just twice in their last 16 Championship matches, a run which has seen them lose 12 times and amass a miserable return of eight points from a possible 48.
Tony Mowbray’s sides’ own play-off hopes were finally extinguished in last weekend’s 1-0 reverse down the east coast at Hull City, which extended their winless streak to six matches.
In a congested division where the margins between the vast majority of teams are wafer-thin, Boro still, incredibly, have a spot of work to do to make sure they are mathematically safe from the drop.
That will not be easy against Gus Poyet’s Brighton, despite the Sussex outfit having lost their last five fixtures on Teesside without even scoring a goal with their last victory over Boro coming way back in February, 1990 at the old Goldstone Ground.
Boro rode their luck to triumph 1-0 at the Amex Stadium earlier this term, thanks in no small part to an excellent display at the back from Jonathan Woodgate, whom manager Mowbray is hoping to include after he came off with a spot of concussion at half-time at the KC Stadium seven days ago.
Mowbray, who also has doubts over Marvin Emnes, Kieron Dyer and Emmanuel Ledesma, admits he may take the chance to look at one or two squad players in the coming games.
That will especially be the case if results elsewhere secure their league status, with the Teessiders eight points above the bottom three with five games left and the smart money being on them being safe.
He said: “The five games left are important to look at players that maybe have not played much this year.
“But there has to be a balance between giving people opportunities and having a responsibility to win football matches.
“It will be good to see what they can do and maybe a new formula will work for us as well.”