TONY PULIS insists there is still time to turn things around.

Adam Clayton bullishly maintains Middlesbrough can still be a force to be reckoned with if they can somehow scramble into the play-offs.

Fail to win at Bolton Wanderers tonight, though, and the final flickers of hope will be extinguished.

Facing a club that almost went to the wall a week ago, it is surely now or never, not just for Middlesbrough’s faltering promotion hopes, but also for their manager, whose position will surely be untenable if a run of six winless matches becomes seven.

Pulis put a brave face on things in the wake of Saturday’s capitulation at Swansea, claiming his relationship with chairman Steve Gibson remains as close as ever.

Perhaps it is.

But while Pulis looks likely to walk away of his own volition once his contract expires at the end of the season, the decision could be taken out of his hands if the current nosedive continues.

Missing out on the play-offs would be a huge disappointment.

Missing out with two or three games to spare would surely have immediate ramifications.

The challenge at Bolton’s University of Bolton Stadium tonight is to begin to shift the narrative in a more positive direction. Win this evening, and for all that their recent form is wretched, Boro will still start as favourites against a Bolton side that have lost four of their last five home games, and Pulis’ side could close back to within a point of the play-off positions if other results go their way.

Their next two games will see them host Hull City and Stoke City, matches that offer an opportunity to start generating momentum. Fanciful? On the evidence of the last six matches, undoubtedly. But Boro have been here before and successfully arrested a decline that threatened to prove terminal to their promotion hopes.

“The season we got promoted, with ten games to go we didn’t have a manager,” said Clayton, referring to the time when a dressing-room bust-up meant Aitor Karanka was prevented from travelling with the team to Charlton Athletic. “But we dug deep to pull that back together and we put a ten-game run together that got us promoted.

“We have been in tough spots before as a club, we know what to do. There are a lot of big characters in the dressing room, real leaders, and it is down to us now to turn it around.

“It’s our job to get the fans behind us with some exciting football, and displays that can inspire them. We know what we can do at our best at Middlesbrough, and the fans know that too. Now, we have to do it.”

In some respects, Clayton’s comments are simply the words of an experienced professional toeing the party line, but in fairness to the midfielder, it is not as though the six-game losing run has contained a succession of matches in which Boro’s effort and commitment have been found wanting.

Saturday’s defeat was the exception in that respect, but prior to their limp display in South Wales, Boro’s players had played reasonably well in patches, only for chances to go begging and defensive lapses to prove costly.

Confidence is understandably fragile, something Bolton will look to exploit, but the Boro dressing room is packed with experience, and if the players have not lost belief in what Pulis is telling them, a turnaround is not completely out of the question.

It has to start tonight though, with Bolton seemingly there for the taking after the trauma of the last few days, when a stay of execution at the High Court came with the caveat that administration is still a strong possibility.

Middlesbrough (possible, 5-4-1): Randolph; Shotton, Ayala, Flint, Fry, Downing; Howson, Mikel, Besic, Fletcher; Assombalonga.