MIDDLESBROUGH’S preparations for this Saturday’s crucial promotion tussle with Leeds United has suffered further frustration after the woeful FA Cup exit at Newport County and a nightmare journey home.

Not only did the Boro supporters left inside Rodney Parade at the final whistle on Tuesday night after losing 2-0 to the Exiles let rip at manager Tony Pulis and his team, the players and staff were then hit with an eventful journey home.

After leaving Newport, Middlesbrough’s players travelled to Cardiff Airport for 11.15pm and after boarding the plane and briefly taxiing on the runway, the aircraft was forced to return to stand because of engine failure.

The travelling contingent from Teesside then sat on the aircraft before eventually the decision was made to leave the airport and head back to the North-East on the team coach which eventually got back at 7am.

It just about summed up a nightmare round trip for Middlesbrough and that ending to it has also affected the build-up to Saturday’s visit of automatic promotion contenders Leeds to the Riverside Stadium.

Before Middlesbrough had even got to Newport their flight down to South Wales was delayed by two hours because of the weather.

Then Pulis was left stunned by a display from his players at Rodney Parade that ended in a deserved FA Cup exit, missing out on date with Manchester City in the fifth round.

Middlesbrough looked disjointed and unadventurous against Newport, even though the manager had fielded two strikers, Britt Assombalonga and Jordan Hugill, from the first whistle.

And Newport made their higher league opponents pay by scoring twice in the second half courtesy of some poor defending and goalkeeping, leaving Pulis to insist that the awful playing conditions on an uneven surface should not even been used as excuses.

The defeat has led to huge criticism from supporters and has led to claims on social media of an angry verbal exchange between certain members of the Boro camp, although those are unconfirmed at this stage.

To add to the manager’s problems, he will be meeting with his medical team this morning to determine the extent of injuries suffered by his main two strikers Assombalong and Hugill.

It is unclear at this stage how serious they are but clearly the fact that both had to be withdrawn at Newport with hamstring worries before the visit of Leeds has cast huge doubt on their involvement.

Neither striker was able to hit the heights expected of them on Tuesday and Middlesbrough finished the game with Rudy Gestede and Ashley Fletcher on the pitch. Neither of those, nor Rajiv van la Parra, was able to influence the tie in a positive manager either.

Pressure is mounting on Pulis and his players to deliver a run of positive performances and results at home having failed to win eight league games at the Riverside this season.

Even more frustratingly for the fans, his side have only scored 14 times at home in the league – and only second from bottom Bolton have fewer.

The pressure will be on Middlesbrough to start well against Leeds or they will run the risk of criticism soon belting down on them from the stands.

Middlesbrough’s washout in Wales has dampened spirits after the heroics at the Hawthorns when Middlesbrough climbed level on points with fourth placed West Brom.

There is still a seven point gap to close on the automatic promotion places but losing to Newport has resurfaced the concerns post-deadline day when Pulis was unable to add greater attacking power to his squad.

Middlesbrough will be looking to make changes against Leeds, with Ryan Shotton and John Obi Mikel two of those almost certain to slot back in.

Stewart Downing is still unlikely to start the league game because another start will trigger a contract extension.