IN more than a decade as a professional footballer, John Obi Mikel thought he had seen pretty much everything.

From Premier League titles to Champions League finals, winning Olympic medals to having two of the biggest clubs in the world fighting for his services as a teenager, the 31-year-old was confident he had experienced everything football has to offer.

Then he moved to Middlesbrough, and discovered a club with a rare ability to set bizarre new standards.

In the last two matches, Mikel has been part of a Middlesbrough side that has created more than 40 chances and failed to take one. Shots have been unwittingly deflected on to the woodwork by the back of an opponent’s head. Efforts have been denied by acrobatic goalline defending and razor-sharp goalkeeping. Opportunities have been spurned by some errant finishing.

Tony Pulis says he has never seen anything like it, joking that Middlesbrough have created more chances in the last two matches than his Stoke City side managed in a season, and Mikel concurs. If the effect on Boro’s promotion hopes was not so severe, it would be hard to take the whole thing seriously.

“I’ve never known anything like it,” said Mikel, who joined Boro in January on a short-term contract that runs to the end of the season. “I’ve played all over the world in many teams, and I’ve never known this situation.

“If you watch the game (against Bristol City), we have created so many, many chances. We are sat there scratching our heads and wondering how on earth we didn’t get a goal. How did we not come away with something?

“That’s been the story for the last few games. We have created so many chances and not scored. Then again, we have hit the post twice, had shots blocked on the line, hit the last defender, they are just not going in for us.”

The impact on Boro’s promotion hopes has been severe, with a run of five successive defeats having dropped the Teessiders to eighth place in the table, two points adrift of the top six.

From a position where they had a game in hand on most of their rivals, they have now played a game more than Derby, who are a place above them, and Bristol City, who rose to fifth when they won on Tuesday night. Consequently, securing a play-off spot is no longer in their hands.

The remaining seven matches offer an opportunity for redemption, and on paper at least, Boro’s run-in looks relatively kind. They do not have to play any of the teams currently above them in the table, and three of their remaining seven opponents currently sit in the bottom six.

That will be irrelevant if they cannot start scoring though, and as he prepares to travel to Swansea City on Saturday, Mikel is hoping for something to spark a change of luck.

“Right now, I would take anything,” said the midfielder. “A scrappy goal, a handball, anything. Just a goal – that’s what we need,

“Everyone is working hard and playing well, everyone is putting in the effort and creating chances. We are trying to play football and create chances, we are not just knocking it long, we are passing and playing it and doing it properly. We just need something to go for us.”

Pulis continues to search for a winning formula, but the Boro boss has conceded he will not be able to call on Rajiv van La Parra to change things, despite the Huddersfield Town loanee having accompanied Mikel through the entrance door during the January transfer window.

Van La Parra is yet to make a Championship start for Boro, and a back problem means Pulis has had to rule him out of the remainder of the campaign.

“Raj joined us with back problem, which was documented by both clubs, and attempts to get him fit proved unsuccessful,” admitted the Boro boss. “He has had a scan, and we don’t think he will play this season, so there is a problem there.

“I managed against him last year and he played 45 games, but he has only played four games and struggled to get to that level and obviously we know the reason why. It is medical, don’t ask me more.”