JONATHAN WOODGATE made no attempt to hide his disappointment after watching his Middlesbrough players suffer a first home defeat in ten matches at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro, who are now nine matches without a win since beating Preston on New Year’s Day, lost to second from bottom Luton Town courtesy of Ryan Tunnicliffe’s 17th minute winner.

Despite the blustery and wintry conditions at the Riverside, Woodgate was in no mood to make too many excuses and claimed his side didn’t hit the standards expected of them which resulted in the defeat.

Middlesbrough are now just six points above the relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s trip to third from bottom Barnsley, who went to automatic promotion chasers Fulham and won 3-0.

Woodgate said: “I wasn’t happy at all with the performance. That’s all I will say.

"Anything is possible in the Championship, anyone can turn up and beat anyone, look at Barnsley at Fulham today.

“That game out there, we didn’t play well and you can’t say they played well. They ground out a 1-0. They had one shot on target and we did. They got the result.

“They wasted time often. It was hard to get a foothold on it. Every time the ball went out they were taking an age. It was one of those games. I am very disappointed. We weren’t good enough.

“Our final ball wasn’t good enough. A lot of our balls were just blasted across the face of goal and we should have better quality.

"I don’t blame the fans for booing us. I would have done the same. I do expect when the going gets tough, they should stand up and get on the ball and show character.”

Woodgate’s side only really threatened once, seriously, when Britt Assombalonga headed over in the closing stages after Hayden Coulson had done well to get into the box and cross.

There was a positive sight of seeing captain George Friend back in the thick of the action for the first time since early November.

His return in this game, though, was largely down to the bad news that Dael Fry will miss a month.

“Four weeks,” said Woodgate. “We found out yesterday. He got the scan. Thigh injury. One fit, one out, one fit, one out, it's been constant. It's difficult to get a settled defence.”

Luton boss Graeme Jones was just delighted that his players got their rewards to avoid equalling a club record 13th defeat in a row courtesy of Tunnicliffe’s winner.

Tunnicliffe was on hand in the penalty area to sweep a first time finish inside goalkeeper Aynsley Pears’ bottom right corner after Dan Potts’ cross was not dealt with properly.

That proved to be the only goal of the game to lift Luton to within four points of safety and follows on from the midweek win over Sheffield Wednesday.

“I think next game let’s win it, I don’t believe in hoodoos,” said Gateshead-born Jones, back in his native North-East.

“I am delighted, this win has been coming. I have looked an absolute idiot at times but I was pleased with the control we have had on the ball today.

“Middlesbrough have a Premier League bench. They finished 4-2-4. They played Tuesday, we played Wednesday. But there is a spirit in there you can’t break.

“I think we need to assess Jonathan’s work, and his work has been fantastic. Tony Pulis has his own style. Me and Darren Moore went to WBA when Tony had a lasting impression on the club. It is not easy turning that style around. I like how Jonathan conducts himself, it doesn’t come overnight.”

Jones was staying on Teesside overnight. He said: “My wife is from Stockton-on-Tees, she was brought up a Middlesbrough supporter. Today she was supporting Luton Town.

“I lost my mother in law five weeks ago, I haven’t had the opportunity to pay our respects. This game is unforgiven, it doesn’t think about things like that. I am going to stay up tonight and spend some time with the family and try to celebrate the win.”

MIDDLESBROUGH (3-5-2): Pears; Howson, Moukoudi, Friend; Spence (Gestede 68), McNair, Wing, Saville (Assombalonga 59), Coulson; Nmecha, Fletcher. Subs (not used): Mejias (gk), Shotton, Johnson, Morrison, Tavernier.

LUTON TOWN (4-4-2): Sluga; Pearson, Bradley, Carter-Vickers, Potts; Ruddock-Mpanzu, Cranie (Rea 76), Berry (Bree 72), Tunnicliffe; LuaLua (Brown 83), Collins. Subs (not used): Shea, McManaman, Hylton, Shinnie.