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Mowbray: Defeat felt like a kick in the teeth
MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray admits he is taking the club's recent slump harder than anybody else and revealed Saturday's defeat to Birmingham felt like a 'kick in the teeth'.
Boro's chances of finishing in the play-offs continued to crumble when Nikola Zigic's 81st minute strike condemned the Teessiders to a third successive league defeat at the Riverside.
Mowbray's men face a mountain to climb if they are to finish in the top six after Saturday's loss left them five points adrift of Leicester City in sixth and with only eight games remaining, time is simply running out.
Given the promising position Boro held at the beginning of 2013, it is hard to fathom exactly what has gone wrong on Teesside and supporters made their feelings clear when a chorus of boos echoed around the Riverside at full time.
After almost two-and-a-half years in the hot seat, sections of fans have begun to voice their concerns over Mowbray's reign, but having supported the club since the age of six, the Boro boss revealed he too is finding their current situation hard to swallow.
The criticism may have started to come his way, but Mowbray remains positive their long-term goal is still achievable.
"Football management... I don't think anybody takes it (losing) harder than the manager at a football club. I've supported this club since I was a boy of six or seven you know," the Boro boss said.
"Supporters take it very hard of course, I think we all do and yet and as a manager you feel as if the buck stops with you.
"It's your responsibility, it's your team, you do the preparation, the planning, the organising, you set the ground rules out about how you play, you do all the homework on the opposition and set out how you will play.
"So when you lose a match, you take it pretty hard, yeah. And yet, you have to be resilient and you have to be thick-skinned and you have to be ready to go again, because in this division, invariably there's another game around the corner.
"We've not won enough matches and yet we gave ourselves a really good foundation for a successful season.
"How am I? It's tough at present and it'd be wrong to say anything else. It's not nice losing football matches and we've lost too many of them."
The fact Boro were sitting third and within reach of the automatic promotion places at the end of 2012 demonstrates their how hard they have fallen, but what is even more staggering is that a top ten finish is now uncertain.
They were helped by Leeds' defeat to Huddersfield, but the chasing pack are now gaining ground on Boro and if they continue at their current rate a top half finish would be an achievement.
Mowbray admits he has been scrutinising everything in a bid to turn things around, but he believes their season isn't over yet.
He said: "We've tried going back to basics. the displays haven't been as fluent which at this stage of the season is to be expected.
"We're at the stage in the season where the pitches aren't lush and it's not like earlier in the season when we could get the ball down and play all over the pitch.
"We've been trying to grind out results but we've suffered some results which have felt like being kicked in the teeth. We'll wait and see what these last eight games bring."
Boro were undone by a long run from Birmingham left back and Newcastle United loanee Shane Ferguson, before Zigic eventually bundled the ball home on the line.
There had been little between the sides before the winning goal, but Boro's performance fell way short for a team hoping to go on to big things.
"We knew it would be a tight match against a team with a bit of experience," Mowbray said. "We put them under pressure and asked a few questions but it's just not going our way at the moment.
"We didn't track their full-back for the goal and that's hugely disappointing. We've got to start winning matches to give ourselves a chance and I have to admit it's a very quiet dressing room.
"We gave it our best shot and didn't manage to get the result. They're a real honest bunch of players who're giving me everything at the moment but we're just falling short."