AFTER spending the best part of 18 months working out how to be more pragmatic in their approach to Championship football, Paddy McNair thinks Middlesbrough can be spared some time in trying to get things right under Jonathan Woodgate.

And with back-to-back home dates with Wigan tomorrow and Millwall on Saturday, the Northern Ireland defender also appreciates that this is the perfect week to give life under new head coach Woodgate lift-off.

Defeat at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday extended Woodgate’s winless start to four matches, losing three of those, and the last two have been in the league by a one goal margin.

It has not been the dream beginning Woodgate would have hoped for when he agreed to take on the reins at the Riverside Stadium following in the footsteps of Tony Pulis.

But while there are a few moans and groans from Middlesbrough’s supporters, there is also a large section of fans accepting that things are changing at the club - and will continue to do so with less money flying around these days.

Despite his hopes to implement a new way of playing, a more attractive style, Woodgate and his staff were as frustrated as his players and fans at the way his team failed to avoid defeat at Blackburn.

Now Middlesbrough, having lost the last two in the league to Rovers and Brentford without scoring, have two home dates in a row where they can really put down a marker.

McNair said: “We want to get the first win. We have been unlucky in the first two games especially not to get the first win, but it is a long season and there are only three games gone, we will be fine. We will pick up plenty of wins this season and definitely challenge for the top.

“These two home games are an opportunity. We can’t go in thinking ‘we have to win we have to win’, we just have to get the performance right and the win will follow. There is no better feeling than winning games and getting momentum before the international break would be good for us.”

Where Middlesbrough impressed in an attacking sense at Luton on the opening weekend, and looked dangerous in the first half against Brentford, they were hugely disappointing at Blackburn.

But given this is largely the same squad that played under Pulis for one and a half years, McNair thinks it is too much to expect things to change completely in a short space of time under Woodgate.

“Compared to last season it is far better because we are playing football again, everyone wants to get the ball down and pass it,” said McNair.

“Last season was the opposite of that. We have good footballers in the team so we want to do that. In that respect it’s not too much of an ask, but I think at this stage it is about getting that bit of luck.

“Last year we did play a very defensive, long ball style of play. This year it’s a pressing game, we want to keep the ball and move it forward.

“At Blackburn we might not have shown how we want to play but as long as we stick to how we want to play then we will pick up points.

“Blackburn were very direct and in the first half we fell in the trap of going direct as well, forcing it too fast as well. We will have to learn from these games. We will have to look at the games, keep the positives and learn from the negatives.

“We have to keep playing, be brave on the ball and keep going. It can be hard but you need to get it down and play.

“It’s only natural the tension will grow the longer the wait goes on for a win, but we have these two home games coming up and we will be fine.”

Woodgate has already shown his intention to give McNair a big chance this season. The former Sunderland man struggled to hold down a place under Pulis despite arriving in a £5m deal last year.

Now the Middlesbrough head coach seems keen to involve McNair in his preferred midfield role, having witnessed Pulis try him in a variety of positions other than that despite an early indication that he would be used as an attacking middle-man.

McNair, who has shown some positive signs in the opening few matches, said: “Last season was hard. It’s a big change. It was a frustrating season, this time is great the new manager is playing me every week and I am enjoying it.

“Last season I signed as a midfielder, that’s what I was told and for whatever reason it was not that way. I never actually played a league game in midfield which was a strange situation. That’s behind me now and I am enjoying this, I will get better every game.

“There is no better feeling than going out on a Saturday and helping the team to a win. Hopefully we will see plenty of those this season and we can all enjoy it.”

Middlesbrough will now have to assess the fitness of George Friend after he was withdrawn at Ewood Park late in the second half with a knock; having played his made first start in the league after a lay-off.

His fitness could be crucial given Hayden Coulson is already sidelined for the next couple of weeks with thigh trouble, so Marc Bola is standing by. Dael Fry is in contention again, though, after he came through an Under-23s outing on Friday night unscathed.