AGAINST Brentford, it was a case of ‘first half good, second half not so great’. Against Millwall last weekend, things were reversed. ‘First half pretty poor, second half much better’.

Now, as he prepares to lead his side into tomorrow’s lunch-time kick-off at Bristol City, Jonathan Woodgate wants his players to progress from being halfway there. Put together a complete performance, and Boro’s stuttering start to the season could finally crank into gear.

“It’s important for us because we need to put two halves together,” admitted Woodgate, whose side have taken five points from their opening five games of the season. “We can’t keep playing one half good, another half poor, there’s got to be a balance in there.

“They’re not thinking it’s job done at half-time, I wouldn’t let them, there’d be heads rolling in the dressing room if they did, but I can only say so many things to them.

“It’s sometimes down to how the other team starts the second half, if they’ve had a rollicking and the manager has gone crazy then that could be part of it, but as a team, that’s when you need your leaders to get together, pull people around for ten minutes, get the wingers tucked in, and when you start getting on top again, you move further up the pitch.”

Striving for a greater level of consistency must be one of the most infuriating aspects of football management, and Woodgate admits he is having to learn to maintain a sense of emotional equilibrium despite his players’ fluctuating performance levels.

There have been times this season when the quality within the Middlesbrough squad has come shining through, but similarly there have been occasions when the weaknesses within Woodgate’s group have become apparent.

That is the reality of life in the Championship, and while it was easier for Woodgate to play a direct role in changing things when he was performing on the pitch as a player, he is gradually learning how to roll with the highs and lows on the touchline as a head coach.

“You need to take a step back, and that’s what you try to do when you go home,” he said. “I always say never get too high or too low, it’s important to stay in the middle and I’m really conscious of that.

“I’ve got to try and stay in the middle because the Championship changes like that. You’ll see it this season. A team that is flying at the top and winning all of their games, they’ll finish mid-table or even below. Look at us last season as a prime example, we were up the top and then we lost six on the spin.

“You’ve got to remain level. Even if we’d have won these last few games on the spin, I would remain level because I know things can turn in an instant. And it’s when you get complacent and think you’re the bee’s knees is when it’s dangerous. At the minute, I’m level and will always have to be as long as I’m a manager.”

Tomorrow’s trip to Ashton Gate will provide another good indication of where Boro are at in terms of their redevelopment, with Bristol City unbeaten since losing to Leeds on the opening day of the season.

George Friend and Dael Fry have both trained this week, but with a two-week international break following this weekend’s matches, Woodgate is reluctant to take an unnecessary risk with either defender.

“There’s been no invasive stuff with George – he wouldn’t be back fit if he had – but it’s just taking a bit of time,” he said. “I’ve had thigh injuries before, hence the reason why I don’t want to rush Dael back. I know what it’s like, and have the long-term interest of the player at heart. You’ve got the international break, so they can get another two weeks’ training in.”