WITH the chasing pack closing in from below, Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter has told fans not to worry after a frustrating Easter when they have seen their grip on a play-off place weaken.

Boro’s defeat to Wolves on Good Friday and draw at relegation fodder Burton on Monday has allowed teams to close the gap to them in the final play-off spot.

Bristol City, Millwall and Sheffield United are all just a point below, while Preston in tenth can also not be discounted as they sit just two points further back after losing to Derby.

The Rams, who had not won in eight before that success, have now moved two points clear of Middlesbrough while Aston Villa, Fulham, Cardiff and Wolves have already effectively guaranteed themselves of at least a top six spot barring a major calamity.

An inability to overcome Wolves, who finished the game with nine men, and bottom club Burton annoyed sections of the support and the players also know they need to do better if they are to keep their promotion hopes alive.

Leadbitter said: “Sometimes you’ve just got to get something out of a game, but we have to perform better than we did, it’s as simple as that. We have to perform better, and we have to get wins across the line to keep us in the top six. I’m sure we’ll do that.

“It’s about doing the right things day by day. You have to get it right on the training pitch, day by day, because when you do that, nine times out of ten you get things right on the pitch during the game.

“That’s really the message we have to stick with. We keep going. It’s a long season, we keep saying that, and we just have to keep going. It’s exciting. I’m sure it was tough for the fans to watch, but they’ll stick with us.

“Of course it helps that so many of us in this squad have been here before. The manager has been there and done it too, and we’ve got players who have been promoted in there too. That will help over the long run, I’m certain it will. Come the end of the season, I’m sure it’ll be important for us.”

Middlesbrough would only have been sixth by goal difference had Britt Assombalonga not grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser at the Pirelli Stadium.

There were even a couple of points, before Millwall and Sheffield United’s leads were cancelled out, when Tony Pulis’ side had dropped out of the play-off spot which could have dented confidence ahead of Aitor Karanka’s return to the Riverside with Nottingham Forest this Saturday.

“You have to keep going. With the players we have, we know that if we keep going, we can get there in the end,” said Leadbitter. “You have to keep going no matter what. It wasn’t good enough at Burton though. But we take a point and we’re still in the top six, that’s the only thing I can say really. It’s still all to play for, and it’s quite an exciting finish to the season, isn’t it?

“It’s the business end of the season, so the positive we have to take is that we didn’t get beat. If we had lost, it would have been a big kick in the teeth, but we take a point. We wanted more, but it didn’t happen for us. But we’re still there and we’re still fighting, and I’m sure we’ll keep going to the end. We’re still in a good position.”

Leadbitter, 32, has been back in the Middlesbrough side for the last two games after losing his place because of suspension. He had been a key part of the improved run of results before that, when Pulis’ team had got the promotion charge up and running.

Now Leadbitter wants to see a return to winning ways against Forest. He said: “It was a point, and we got out of jail really. Let’s not kid ourselves, we got out of jail a bit. But we’ll take a point and we’ll move on. We’re still in the top six, and that’s the only positive really to take from that performance.

“We didn’t start the game well, and when you don’t start the game well, you’re always chasing. But we’ll put that one to bed. We’ll take the point, and we have to come back to work and do better.

“There were 11 players on the pitch, and it could have been anyone coming off. We didn’t start the game well for an unknown reason, but that happens. Credit to the boys, we didn’t give up and we took a point out of the game. We’re still in the top six. The fans stuck with us, even though I’m sure it was tough for them to watch.”