IF there is one thing that Jonathan Woodgate doesn’t want to see creep into Middlesbrough’s performances between now and the end of his first season as head coach it is complacency - and he has delivered a warning to his players as he looks to ensure the campaign doesn’t peter out.

While Boro are not quite safe as they head to promotion chasing Brentford this afternoon, neither do they look like having a chance of climbing into the play-off mix unless they embark on a monumental winning run in the final 16 matches in the Championship.

Middlesbrough sit seven points above the bottom three and 14 points shy of Brentford in fifth and Bristol City in sixth, so the chances of celebrating a surprise return to the Premier League come May can, it would seem, effectively be ruled out.

Try telling that to Woodgate, who is desperate to ensure Middlesbrough recapture the sort of form before the turn of the year that lifted them clear of the relegation zone – at a time when there were growing concerns among fans.

Woodgate, looking for no dips in performance, said: “I want to finish as high as I can and try to play with an energy, as we’ve done in recent weeks, when we’re getting better at times and then seeing levels drop off, I don’t want to see that, I want to see us at it all the time.

“More consistency in how I want to play and how I want to work off the ball is what I want to see more of. We have improved since the summer but I know those improvements needs to continue.  “If any player starts taking their foot off the pedal they’ll be out of the team and they’ll be out of my plans. It’s quite clear.”

Since Woodgate was named manager of the month for December, Middlesbrough have not won another game. Aside from the Tottenham double header in the FA Cup, the Teessiders have drawn three matches at home against Derby, Birmingham and Blackburn as well as lost at Fulham, Clearly that is not the worst form in the world, but Woodgate knows he wants more victories to be delivered between now and the end of the season to ensure his first season in charge ends on a strong note – and to see where that takes them.

He made adjustments to his squad last month to strengthen his cause, with Harold Moukoudi and Ravel Morrison arriving on deadline day to follow on from the earlier window arrivals Patrick Roberts, Lukas Nmecha and Dejan Stojanovic.

While there is a lot of excitement centred on forward thinkers Roberts, Nmecha and Morrison, Woodgate is delighted to have an extra option at the back in Moukoudi.

The St Etienne defender has joined on loan for the rest of the campaign having been seriously on the club’s transfer radar since he impressed in a friendly at the Riverside 18 months ago.

He remains young and raw but Woodgate feels his powerful presence has already been noted on the training ground and he is looking forward to being able to call on him in the next few months.

And how Middlesbrough have needed that extra option at the back, given midfielders Paddy McNair and Jonny Howson have had to play there of late. Moukoudi’s arrival comes at a time when Ryan Shotton and George Friend are closer to return to first team action after months out.

“I was trying to win games using different formations and we haven’t had that many options to mix things up, if I have two natural centre-backs then I can play with a two or I could play with a three now,” said Woodgate.  “If you don’t have the two natural centre-backs then it is better to play with a three. But it’s good to be adaptable and it’s nice to know that when I give different things for the players to think about they are taking those on to the pitch. They are a clever bunch and when I tell them to do something they do it.

“I just want to win as many games between now and the end of the season that I can and I’ll go into every game trying to win as many games. Listen, I will say it again, If a player takes his foot off the pedal he’ll be out of the team.”

In the early stages of the season, and Woodgate’s reign, Middlesbrough were hugely impressive in the first half of the home date with Brentford. That was at the Riverside in August, the second game of the season, eight days after the 3-3 opener at Luton.

But in the end Middlesbrough were unable to maintain the first half display after the restart and Brentford took the points courtesy of an Ollie Watkins winner. That 90 minutes became synonymous with many more after,  where there were plenty positives from games but it took Middlesbrough time to deliver a string of good results.

“That first half against Brentford we were exceptional, we improved in different areas of the pitch but we didn’t maintain that. We started to get better, but this is still a young squad in many areas,” said Woodgate.  “I said after that game that Brentford would be there or thereabouts because of the style of play and the players they have. They have a good recruitment team - £68m they have made form players bought and sold over the last few years.  “But they haven’t been promoted, you can say they are making money but they have not got out of this this league. That’s what you have to look at it. This year they have a very good manager in Thomas Frank doing a fantastic job. It could be there year.  “Watkins, Said Benrahma, they have a number of good players. Every team have found it difficult against them. They only lost 1-0 against Leicester and Nottingham Forest before beating Hull 5-1 in the last game away. We know how Brentford play and it is up to us to try to win on what could be our last visit there (Brentford plan to move to new stadium in 2020-21.”

While Moukoudi is waiting for his first chance at the back, Woodgate will soon have more options when Shotton and Friend return. Shotton played for the Under-23s again yesterday against Blackburn, having appeared last Sunday against Tottenham. The two will also face Celtic on Tuesday in a training ground friendly, so neither will figure in the next two Championship games.

"George wasn’t quite right to play last weekend so we didn’t want to rush him so after an extra week he should be even better for it," said  "I’ve been guilty of coming back too early myself when I was playing because you’re keen and you want to play. Sometimes it’s a braver decision to say I’ll give it another week.

"He’s really desperate, you know what George is like, he’s an absolute pleasure to work with day in day out, when he trains his stats go through the roof.  "Both George and Howson are just different class as professionals, unbelievable."