GARRY MONK will be given every opportunity to turn Middlesbrough back into serious promotion contenders despite the growing pressure on his shoulders from the stands.

After three defeats in four matches Boro have fallen 14 points behind second place Cardiff in the race for an automatic place.

And following leaders Wolves’ victory at Birmingham on Monday night, Middlesbrough are now a mammoth 18 points shy of Nuno Espirito Santo’s men.

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Just as worrying is that Middlesbrough’s inconsistent form has them six points shy of a play-off place following Saturday’s defeat at Bristol City.

And that was a performance which even led to Monk publicly apologising to the club’s travelling fans. He is known to have still been hurting by the performance over the weekend.

Yesterday Monk tweeted: "No excuses from the last couple of games. Our fans deserve much better. We must give every ounce we have this week to produce a reaction."

Monk is all too aware that Middlesbrough’s slump can’t continue because of the demands placed on him and the Premier League targets chairman Steve Gibson had in mind following relegation last season.

They have invested heavily in ensuring the squad is equipped to be promotion contenders but they have failed to live up to their billing as favourites to go up at the start of the campaign.

But Monk has the backing from the boardroom to turn things around, even if he appreciates that things must improve. The focus from within is trying to ensure the results start to take a positive turn from this weekend when play-off contenders Ipswich Town travel to the Riverside.

There are plenty of Middlesbrough fans who already want a change, having flooded social media and phone-ins since the defeat at Ashton Gate.

Gibson has always tended to give his managers time, though, and Monk will be doing everything he can this week to try to deliver a much-needed three points against the Tractor Boys.

After returning late from Bristol on Saturday night, Monk was keen to get the players back in for training on Monday so cancelled the scheduled day off. The squad will now work on with them for the rest of the week to prepare for the Ipswich date.

The visit of Mick McCarthy’s men, who have won their last two matches, will be followed by away dates at Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday before Christmas.

Monk has always maintained the Championship is a tough division to crack but he is confident he has the players and the attitudes that will enable Middlesbrough to develop and improve under his watch.

Gibson was keen to hand the 38-year-old a three-year deal in the summer after weighing up the alternatives and there was an acceptance it could take time to repair the fractured confidence following relegation and the fall-out from the Aitor Karanka era.

However, with Christmas approaching, both Monk and Gibson know the performances and results need to improve quickly or it is unlikely promotion could be secured at the first attempt – particularly a top two spot.

The defeat to Bristol City was already Middlesbrough’s seventh of the season and they only suffered nine losses during the entire promotion winning campaign of 2015-16. The year earlier, when they reached the play-off final, they lost 11.

But there remains a belief from within that Middlesbrough have the players capable of delivering a turnaround under former Leeds manager Monk’s watch.