BACK in 2004, Iain Dowie coined the phrase ‘bouncebackability’ to describe how his Crystal Palace side had gone from the fringes of relegation to winning promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs. A decade-and-a-half on, and Middlesbrough are proving similarly adept at overcoming setbacks.

Tony Pulis’ side have suffered six league defeats this season, and on five of those occasions, their following Championship match has resulted in a victory. The only time it did not happen was in December, when defeat to Aston Villa was followed by a draw with Blackburn Rovers, but even that might have turned down out differently had Mo Besic not been sent off in the first half of the follow-up game.

Disappointment has never lingered long, so while last week’s defeat at Sheffield United might have raised fears about Boro’s ability to maintain their position at the heart of the promotion race, Sunday’s spirited win at Blackburn showcased the qualities that continue to make the Teessiders strong contenders for a return to the top-flight. They get knocked down, but they get up again. And in a league as relentlessly competitive as the Championship, indefatigability is not a bad asset to have.

“One thing the manager has said, and I agree with, is that when you have the set-backs, or you get knocked down, it is how you react,” said Jonny Howson, who was one of Boro’s stand-out performers at Ewood Park. “We have had little set-backs this season, which is expected in this league, but we have always responded.

“I get that people are puzzled (by Boro’s inconsistency), and we are aware of that. If we knew the reason why it was happening as players, if we knew the same thing over and over, we could correct it.

“Last season, we struggled against the better teams. This season, we are doing better against the better teams and struggling with those further down the table. But we have still got results against those teams, so it’s not something we think about. These things happen in football sometimes.”

As well as displaying their mental resilience at the weekend, Boro’s players also displayed an adaptability that will stand them in good stead as they head into the final two-and-a-half months of the campaign.

Everyone knows Pulis presides over an unbalanced squad, but the flip side of that is that the Boro boss can call upon a number of players who can excel in a range of different positions.

Paddy McNair, a midfielder who can play at full-back, found himself at centre-half in the closing stages of Sunday’s game, but slotted in seamlessly as Boro secured their 14th clean sheet of the season.

George Saville showcased his versatility as he lined up at left wing-back, and Howson looked like he had been playing in a wing-back role all his life as he dominated proceedings on the opposite flank.

“I really enjoyed it, but then you always do when you win games, said Howson. “If we’d lost three nil, I’d have said I hated it.

“For me personally, it’s just about being in the starting XI. When you look at the quality players we have here, I just want to be out there and I’ll play wherever the manager sees fit.

“We have a squad full of players who are hard-working, honest and will give it their best shot whatever position or their situation. Whether we are played out of position, or (have been on) a bad run of results, we all play and dig in. It seemed to work well for us, we stayed focused at Blackburn and kept another clean sheet.”

With a rare blank midweek, Boro return to action with a home game against QPR on Saturday. However, Derby have the chance to move level on points with them when they host Millwall tomorrow.