TONY PULIS admits Middlesbrough’s home form is becoming a source of major concern, and has challenged his players to deal with the pressure of playing at the Riverside.

Jordan Hugill’s 90th-minute penalty cancelled out a first-half strike from Jed Wallace to secure a 1-1 draw with Millwall, but the result means Boro find themselves six points adrift of the automatic promotion positions.

More worryingly, they have now won just two of their last ten home games in the Championship, a record that hardly smacks of promotion.

The home supporters were quick to voice their discontent as Boro toiled for long periods of their latest home outing, and Pulis accepts there is a lack of confidence when his players play in front of their own fans.

The Middlesbrough boss said: “The players have to be strong enough and resilient enough to understand that the supporters come to watch a positive performance.

“They want to watch teams running around and being positive, whether they’ve got the ball or they haven’t.

“The amazing thing with this group is that in the last two games away from home – at Birmingham and Derby, which are two very difficult clubs to go to – we’ve played exceptionally well, been the better team in both games and played with a lot of vigour and positive energy. Really and truthfully, we’ve taken four points from those games and should have taken six.

“I’ve spoken to them after the game, and irrespective of what is or isn’t going on, if you go out in the frame of mind that you’re a little bit concerned that it’s not going to go well early on, and you can’t then push on, then you’re going to struggle all the time.

“You’ve got to respect and understand that if the supporters are not happy, they’re not happy. You’ve got to roll your sleeves up and fight like billy-o to turn it around and make sure they are happy.”

Pulis’ substitutions helped Boro claim a point, with Stewart Downing delivering the last-minute cross that led to Hugill’s penalty and Rajiv van La Parra providing some of the pace and direct running that was badly lacking in the first half.

Van La Parra is Boro’s only addition of the January window so far, having completed a loan move from Huddersfield Town, but while Pulis has been impressed with the Dutchman’s impact so far, he maintains it is important to tread carefully with him.

Pulis said: “Raj did well coming on, and I was really pleased with him, but he’s nowhere near fit and there’s a bit of concern about making sure he doesn’t pick up an injury by doing too much.

“We have to be careful with that. He showed signs today that he can take people on and go past them. He can put people on the back foot.”