ASHLEY FLETCHER insists Middlesbrough’s players cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves as they prepare to take on Nottingham Forest at the City Ground tonight, and is confident the club’s luck will turn provided everyone remains upbeat.

It has been a case of ‘one step forward, two steps back’ at Boro for much of this season, with every positive development being accompanied by an injury setback or costly refereeing error. That was the case again at the weekend, with the satisfaction of a 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic being tempered by the sight of Britt Assombalonga leaving the Riverside on crutches after injuring his ankle.

Assombalonga is a major doubt tonight, with Jonathan Woodgate pondering whether to start Stephen Walker or Rudy Gestede in attack or play either Paddy McNair or Marcus Tavernier in a ‘number ten’ role. Either way, Boro’s senior players are determined to maintain a positive approach.

“There’s not one player in that dressing room who's feeling downbeat or shying away from where we are at the minute,” said Fletcher. “We work tirelessly every day on the training ground, the attention to detail has been fantastic, we've just not had the rub of the green sometimes.

“We keep saying it, but there comes a time where we’ve got to hold our hands up and say, ‘We've got to make our own luck now, it's time that we start taking ownership and time to knuckle down and get the wins that we deserve’. That’s the mindset we need to have as a squad.”

There have been times this season when Fletcher freely admits he has struggled to maintain a positive stance. The away game at Huddersfield was an especially difficult moment, with the 24-year-old wasting a gilt-edged opportunity to claim all three points when he failed to find the target from inside the six-yard box despite the goal seemingly being at his mercy.

There have been other misses along the way, but both Jonathan Woodgate and Robbie Keane have worked closely with him to maintain his confidence. Their faith was justified when Fletcher scored in back-to-back games against Hull City and Barnsley, and the striker will be a key figure again tonight, especially if Assombalonga is absent.

“I never shy away, and a lot of that is down to Robbie,” he said. “He's been there and done it, he's missed chances. I remember straight after the Huddersfield game I went into the manager's office straight afterwards and I was distraught because I felt personally responsible for costing the team three points.

“Him (Woodgate) and Robbie put their arms around me and said, 'Listen, every striker misses chances, you'll miss a hundred more of them in your career, don't worry about it, it's all about the next one’.

“The next one was probably the Hull game, and I put that away, so to have those two there to keep believing in me and Britt, that's only going to benefit us.”

Both Woodgate and Keane are in their first senior coaching positions, but Fletcher has been impressed with their impact despite Boro’s position just four points above the Championship relegation zone.

Woodgate has had to deal with a host of setbacks over the course of the last four months, but his faith in his squad has never wavered and he has remained committed to his stated policy of promoting young players into the first team.

“The manager has been fantastic,” said Fletcher. “Obviously, last summer, we lost some players like (Mo) Besic, (Jordan) Hugill and John Obi Mikel. Other players have come in, so it is a transition and it is going to take time.

“Listen, we'd all love to transition within the first week and win every game, but sometimes football doesn't work like that. But in terms of the manager, he's been fantastic, he's never panicked once.

“We know how good a we are as a team, and it's just getting the results right, putting the wins together and hopefully we will get out of this situation we are in.”