IN the space of eight days, Jonathan Woodgate has found out that leading Middlesbrough into a bright new era might not actually be as straight-forward as he might have hoped.

But as he turned and headed for the tunnel at Ewood Park after reflecting on a second consecutive 1-0 defeat in the Championship, he was portraying a calm exterior. “There’s three games out of 46 gone,” he said, clearly there’s plenty time to deliver.

And he is right. Middlesbrough and Woodgate will know, though, the need to start picking up the points has already arrived, with two home dates on the horizon, starting with the visit of Wigan on Tuesday night, before a trip to Bristol City to hit the international break.

The new head coach, following his appointment in the summer, the players, the fans and even the club’s hierarchy, could all do with seeing some fruits from their labour after collecting just a point from the opening three matches of the campaign.

Throw in the fact Middlesbrough are already out of the Carabao Cup following the defeat to League Two’s Crewe last week, and it is easy to understand why Woodgate and his team might need that little lift.

After the excitement of the opening night draw at Luton when Middlesbrough looked dangerous going forward, while awful in defence, the defeat at home to Brentford was sustained despite, arguably, one of the team’s best 45-minute performances in a long time before things turned sour after the break.

But since those the penalties defeat to Crewe and losing to Blackburn were endured in a much more frustrating fashion. In neither of those did Middlesbrough play with the sort of panache Woodgate is demanding.

Woodgate said: “We need to keep the ball better at times. In training you can see them playing how we want, and we need to show the courage in possession, move it quicker from side to side when we are out playing games. We need to do it on a Saturday and Tuesday. It’s about players being brave, when things are not going their way it is about being brave.

“First and foremost I have expectations myself. I know the fans will back us all the way. But it’s about being brave and getting on the ball and if you give it away you have to get back on it. Get it again if you make a mistake under intense pressure.”

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Marcus Browne hit the post late on

Saturday’s defeat to Blackburn was the result of a needlessly conceded penalty when summer recruit Anfernee Dijksteel tugged Danny Graham back in the penalty area for everyone inside Ewood Park to see. The ball was dropping away from danger and still he did it.

Graham, on a day when there were plenty of links to Teesside and an appearance for former Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing, then converted the penalty against his first club by sending goalkeeper Darren Randolph the wrong way in the 25th minute.

That arrived at a time when Blackburn had taken command and looked the more dangerous, having prevented Middlesbrough from building on a decent enough start even though they failed to threaten Christian Walton in the Rovers goal.

Perhaps an indication of the challenge facing Woodgate is how he is trying to change the style of play and approach of the team with largely the same group of players. He suggested once again afterwards that his squad is thin, and Dijksteel, making his first league start for the club, was the only new face in the starting line-up.

Marvin Johnson and Paddy McNair have both had greater involvements so far than they had under Tony Pulis, while there was an appearance from summer signing Marcus Browne from the bench and he hit the woodwork late on from a McNair cross. Overall, though, there was a very familiar feel about the team sent out by Woodgate.

Middlesbrough might have tightened up defensively, with the exception of the silly penalty Dijksteel conceded, but they didn’t attack with the sort of purpose Woodgate and his side-kick Robbie Keane are looking for.

“We didn't play well but it's fine margins,” said Woodgate, whose side could have been two down had his brother-in-law Downing seen his curling effort drop a few inches to the right.

“I don't want to make excuses but it is fine margins. They get the penalty, we hit the post, it's a game of inches. No problem, my players will keep on going, we'll keep going as hard as we can. I've just said to them in the dressing room I believe in every single one of them. My faith is 100 per cent behind them all.

“I want competition for places but as you can see we're really thin but I've got belief in those players and I'll back them in training. I'd love to get a win and it will come when it comes. This isn't going to turn around straight away it takes time.”

Blackburn’s style under Tony Mowbray was different to that adopted by Brentford and Luton in the opening two matches, and Middlesbrough found it hard to adapt their own game to dictate things.

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That is something Woodgate will have to address in the weeks ahead if Middlesbrough are going to enjoy a more successful campaign, with the head coach and his players readily admitting they want to finish higher in the Championship than fans and the boardroom are probably already resigned to in his first year.

“Blackburn weren't playing out from the back so we couldn't really press them in those areas,” said Woodgate. “They did quite well and were quite direct, that's when you've got to role your sleeves up and try to defend.

“It was a typical Championship game. I don’t think either team played well. These games are were you need to grind it out, we had no complaints about the penalty. I thought a draw would have been a fair result.

“I just think we need to do things properly. It’s fine margins in this league and we need to capitalise when we get our chances. They were (in your face), like I say it was a typical Championship game.

“You will get that, when you come to places like this you need to grind it out, it’s important we move on at the Riverside against Wigan. You need to win the battle, this league is not easy, then you start to play. Towards the end we were on top, but they did drop off a bit.”