JONATHAN WOODGATE has been tipped to turn Middlesbrough’s fortunes around by one of his most experienced players after a defeat to the Championship’s bottom club that has increased relegation fears on Teesside.

Boro head into this Wednesday’s visit of second-placed Leeds United and fifth-placed Nottingham Forest next Monday having taken just four points from the last 24 available to them since New Year’s Day.

That eight-match winless run, ten in all competitions, in the league has seen Middlesbrough drop to within three points of the relegation zone and the teams below them are showing they are still battling and capable of collecting points.

Most of Middlesbrough’s strong near-4,000 following at Oakwell stayed around to direct angry chants and boos at the players as they walked off the pitch following the 1-0 defeat to Barnsley, and there appeared to be a heated exchange involving Rudy Gestede before he headed into the tunnel in the corner when he had to be ushered inside.

Middlesbrough’s performances have worsened in recent weeks, and the back-to-back defeats to Luton Town and Barnsley were down to displays that have rightly got supporters concerned ahead of the final 12 matches.

But Ryan Shotton, included in the side for the first time since October to bring some extras experience for the fight, thinks Woodgate has the right approach and he is confident he can deliver brighter times to the Riverside.

“He can turn this around, of course he can,” said Shotton. “I bump into people in the street and they ask me if he is good enough, can he do it? Of course he can.

“He is the best manager I have had. Hands down. He is great with the lads, his man-management is brilliant and his quality on the training ground is perfect. We just aren’t showing that on the pitch. That’s what we have to turnaround, it’s down to us.”

Shotton was aware of the criticism from the fans as they left the pitch at Oakwell, where the tunnel was in the corner right next to the travelling contingent, and revealed the atmosphere in the dressing room was as low as it has been.

“Inside the dressing room was quiet, disappointment,” he said. “It was a really bad, dropped shoulders between your legs. At half-time there was a bit of fire, we wanted to play through the pitch, then we didn’t go out and show enough. We lacked decision making, quality.”

Woodgate, who has maintained a strong team spirit for the majority of the season, must try to find a way to find more than just togetherness when they are on the pitch. He needs his team to find a way to deliver three points to climb away from trouble, with the players admitting they are in a battle to stay up.

Shotton said: “I couldn’t say they wanted it more. Every player who went out there wanted the same as every other player, it might not look like that from the side of the stands, but for me we battled well it was about who battled better. Maybe they battled better, but wanting it? No. Quality was what we were lacking.

“It’s just doing what we know, going back to what we know. The Christmas period was great, maybe we were looking the wrong way at the play-offs when we were doing well during that period.  “We still slipped and now we have to go back to the drawing board and do what got us out of that situation. What did we do right? Look at what we did and go back from there.  “For this three months, definitely, yes. If we stay up, when we stay up, we switch that mentality. We think, there we have survived, and then look to the summer and see where we can improve and who comes in to climb back up.  “We have three months to get out of it. We have three months where we need to rewire the system, change the mindset and do what is required what we can do get out of it.

“It’s lovely having luxury players here and there, but you have to get them to battle. You saw the likes of Ravel Morrison, throwing tackles about, some people didn’t think he could do that. As far as I say, the battling side of our team is not in question. It is just the quality.

“I was in a relegation battle on loan at Barnsley ten years ago. We stayed up. I have been in it, been in the Premier League with Stoke and not cruising at some points. You have to show what you can do.”

With Leeds and Forest next on the agenda, Middlesbrough know that only victories will do right now to give them some real breathing space in the fight to avoid dropping into League One.

"There's no better games to bounce back in," said Shotton.