AFTER a weekend when Middlesbrough’s advantage over the Championship’s relegation zone was cut, defender Daniel Ayala is not about to take club’s place in the second tier of English football for granted.

Boro’s poor start to the season dropped to a new depth on Friday night when a dreadful performance at Birmingham City resulted in a fifth defeat from 11 matches under Jonathan Woodgate in the league.

Since then two of the four teams below them - Stoke City and Huddersfield, who Middlesbrough play after the international break - managed to win, increasing the pressure on the Teessiders to find a solution to their problems.

Woodgate suggested before that latest loss he was not worrying about the teams below them and was only centred on climbing the table, but the defeat at St Andrew’s left him questioning why there has been woeful displays so far as he has looked to make his team more adventurous and exciting.

Ayala, recalled to a back four in a bid to shore things up and he was one of the better performers on the night, has no problem in admitting Middlesbrough’s situation could soon worsen if they don’t find a way to improve quickly.

“We have to wake up and wake up fast because we are down the bottom and we have to realise that,” said Ayala.

“We are down the bottom and have to realise it. That’s where we are when you look at the table, down at the bottom. There is no point thinking we are going to be in the play-offs, we have to realise we are down the bottom and we have to pick up points fast.

“Of course we are good enough to climb up the table and away from the bottom. We have good players, we have experience, we should have enough. Things have not gone our way but I’m sure we will start to climb the table soon.”

In Woodgate’s post-match interview at Birmingham he raised questions to himself by asking if it was a lack of confidence and if his players were good enough, before then responding that they are good enough to get out of it.

Ayala was asked if he felt a lack of confidence was within a tight group, he said: “Personally I don’t feel that. We are working hard, we are training well, we go out and we do what the manager says but when things are not going so well maybe that affects some younger players. I can’t put my finger on what went wrong. We have to go back to the training ground and work hard.”

Middlesbrough are without a win in their last four matches, losing three. They have won just twice all season and were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Crewe, so Woodgate can’t argue against it being disappointing start.

He has a fortnight to get his team ready for the visit of title-chasing West Brom on October 19, and that is the start of a run of games that includes trips to Huddersfield and Derby either side of a visit from Fulham.

“I haven’t looked at the next fixtures but of course they will be tough,” said Ayala. “In the Championship every game is tough. You can beat the best teams at the top but then lose to the teams at the bottom. That is this league. You don’t look at the fixtures. I believe we can go into every game and get something.

“It is a different challenge to what we have faced before. You need a different mentality. It is still very early in the season and we can’t be thinking we will be down there the whole season. We just need to work realise where we are and start to pick up points.”

Middlesbrough are only two points clear of the relegation zone and the manner of the defeat at Birmingham has caused concern. They didn’t show signs of being more dangerous until midway through the second half. They didn’t play with the sort of swagger and attacking intensity the head coach has wanted to see since taking over from Tony Pulis.

Ayala said: “I don’t think it was the tactics. Sometimes we have to take responsibility as players. I don’t think we did enough. You can’t just wait to see what happens, you have to make it happen. Everyone was hurting in the changing room but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”