Prospect of losing play-off place doesn't phase Mowbray

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

BY the time Middlesbrough kick-off their early evening match against Millwall today they could find themselves out of the play-offs, but manager Tony Mowbray insists he will be focused only on his side and not other results around the country.

Boro's sticky patch at the start of 2013 has weakened their grip on a top six place in the Championship table with seventh-placed Brighton hot of their heels.

A two-point gap separates the teams this morning, but the south coast outfit could knock Boro out the play-offs if they beat Burnley at the Amex Stadium in a 3pm kick-off.

Either way, Mowbray knows his side must go all out for three points this evening, but he insists earlier results and the possibility of kicking off outside the play-offs won't be on his mind.

"The gap is tight now and we might not be in the top six by the time we kick-off," Mowbray said. "But for me you have to stay positive. We need to look up, but if we don't win games we'll drop out. That's a fact of life.

"But let's keep winning and stay where we are.

"We are aware of the pack behind us and those who are in front of us. If we can win some games then we'll close that gap. It's not as if the teams around us have been in great winning form; if that had been the case then we'd be right out of it.

"Let's keep going, let's look forward to the games and the challenges."

"We are not planning to lose or draw against Millwall. We plan to win. The other results don't affect us. We don't need to win every game. We want to win, we intend to win."

Boro find themselves in a similar position to last season, when the Teessiders ended up missing out on a place in the play-offs after their defeat at Watford on the final day of the season.

Having had a ten-point cushion to seventh place in December, Boro once again find themselves on the edge, but they still have a number of games to strengthen their position and Mowbray insists he would rather be in the play-offs now rather than part of the chasing pack.

He said: "It is what it is. The people at Brighton right down to past halfway in the league believe they have a chance of making the play-offs and they are right to think that.

"I would rather be in our position than their position. We have the points. If we can win on Saturday and everyone round about us loses then we could be talking about opening up a five point gap.

"Win against Cardiff and, goodness me, it's an eight point gap.

"Even if we had done half-decent over the past few weeks we would have a ten point gap over Brighton and thinking how comfortable it is."

Today's game kicks off a big week for Middlesbrough, who entertain Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday night before welcoming league leaders Cardiff City to the Riverside next Saturday.

Mowbray, though, insists the next seven days won't shape the rest of Boro's season and win, lose or draw their ambitions stay the same.

"Losing to Chelsea won't shape our season. What we are looking for is a performance, such as Sunderland in the Capital One Cup or Swansea away in that competition, despite having lost that one," Mowbray said.

"We gave a good Premier League side a real game. We'll go into Chelsea looking to compete. We don't want to be totally outplayed by the FA Cup and European Cup champions.

"I think we can take confidence and belief from giving them a tough game, and giving them some attacking moments and even a goal.

"The Cardiff game next week is one we have to look forward to. We have let a number of games away from home slip through our fingers, one of them being in Wales earlier in the season.

"We have another opportunity to put that record straight and prove to ourselves that we are as good as any team in the league."

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