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Failure to reach play-offs would be painful - Hoyte
AS Middlesbrough look to maintain their push for promotion at Derby County today, Justin Hoyte admits it would be painful if the Teessiders failed to reach the play-offs having occupied a place in the top six for the majority of the season.
Apart from a brief spell at the turn of the year, Boro have spent the entire season in the Championship's top six, but two wins in their last ten games has seen Tony Mowbray's men drop to eighth in the table.
However, with a mere two points separating them and sixth-placed Cardiff there is still plenty to play for in the final four games.
Hoyte has been a permanent fixture in Mowbray's side having made 40 appearances this season - his best return since turning professional with Arsenal in 2002 - and the 27-year-old admits it would be devastating not to reach the play-offs.
"It would be very painful if we didn't make the play-offs," Hoyte said speaking at the GB2B Cup - a six-a-side football tournament where Premier League and Championship footballers enter and manage their own teams.
"We would all be really disappointed after all the hard work that we've done in the early part of the season and throughout the season. It's been very tough but we're not going to even think about that until the season is over.
"It's really tight, win two games and you can be right up there or lose two games and teams catch us and that's what happened.
"We're disappointed with the recent results over Easter but we're just going to keep going, keep working hard, training hard, put those performances behind us.
"If we can get on a run and win our next few games then we're back in the play-offs and right in the thick of things.
"No one expected us to be where we are now so it's been a great achievement for us. At the start of the season we kept a lot of clean sheets which was a club record and that was good for the squad and the fans."
Hoyte is one of a number of players out of contract at the end of the season, but talks over possible new deals are unlikely to be put on hold until Boro know which division they will compete in next season.
When he joined Boro from Arsenal in a £3million move in 2008, Hoyte was in search of regular first team football having dropped down the pecking order at the Gunners.
Under Mowbray, Hoyte has fulfilled his ambition and having started more games this season than he ever has, the right-back admits he has a lot to thank his manager for.
He said: "Playing for Middlesbrough has been a good experience for me.
"Obviously it has had its ups and downs, but this season I've played the most amount of games I've played for Middlesbrough, the most consecutive games I've played for Middlesbrough.
"For me, I'm just happy I've played so many games and if anything happens at the end of the season, then we'll see.
"I'm just waiting to see what happens at the end of the season and we'll take things from there.
"Tony Mowbray has turned things around. He was a Middlesbrough player and he's captained the club so he knows just what it means to the club and the supporters.
"He's Middlesbrough through and through. He's great to have around the dressing room. All of the staff get on well with him and he's had a major impact.
"He's doing something great at Middlesbrough. Tony Mowbray has been fantastic and for me personally, he's been great as well."
Middlesbrough will look to record their first win since the beginning of March when they travel to Derby this afternoon.
Defeat at Pride Park would make it very hard for Boro to reach the play-offs with three games remaining, but, depending on other results, a win could lift them back into the top six.
Hoyte insists Boro are more than capable of coming away from Derby with a result given their away form this term.
"We'll approach the game against Derby in the same way we approach every game," he said.
"We've had a few days rest now after the two games. We'll be going into the game ready for it, we'll be more than ready for Derby.
"Derby will be full of confidence because they've won their last few games but so are we. We're away from home again so we'll be even brighter and even sharper."