THERE was one team at Oakwell that displayed the energy levels, the high press and attacking mindset that Jonathan Woodgate spoke of instilling when he took over as Middlesbrough head coach last summer.

But it was bottom club Barnsley who successfully delivered those qualities in a performance that has left Woodgate relying on freak results against promotion contenders Leeds United and Nottingham Forest to avoid a drop back into the bottom three.

Middlesbrough might have a united group of players behind-the-scenes, but they have looked lethargic and without the sort of confidence on the ball required to get themselves clear of trouble in all of their recent games against sides in the bottom three.

One point from games against Wigan, Luton Town and Barnsley have stretched the winless run to ten matches, eight in the league, and Middlesbrough are in serious trouble again having collected just four points from a possible 24 since beating Preston on New Year’s Day.

In anyone’s book that is relegation form. “I have experienced it already, we were in the relegation zone earlier in the season,” said Woodgate. “At the minute we are not in the relegation zone, we are in a relegation fight, we got out of it last time and we will do it again.

“I understand frustrations. It’s nothing new. It’s hard work, it’s belief in yourselves, what you can do. We will sit them down, collectively, we are in this together. I will take the flak, the stick. It’s always been a relegation fight, even with ten points clear.”

While Barnsley’s problems in front of goal were clear to see, they did play with the sort of urgency, energy and purpose that Middlesbrough supporters have expected to see more regularly from a Woodgate team.

The confidence in the ranks of Middlesbrough, who impressed during December when four wins in a row led to him earning the manager of the month, has drained away and the defeat at Barnsley was a new low – and nearly 4,000 travelling fans let them know.

Woodgate opted for experience rather than youth, leaving Hayden Coulson, Marcus Tavernier and Djed Spence out despite the extra levels that those players bring down the flanks. In the final third. Spence, player of the month in December, was not even among the substitutes having been told he has to work harder.

Ravel Morrison, signed to bring creativity and something difference in the attacking third, was recalled for his second start but spent most of the afternoon sitting too deep in a pretty pedestrian midfield that never got to grips with Alex Mowatt and Co.

Lewis Wing had a couple of trademark efforts from distance that zipped wide, but there was not even a meaningful shot on target recorded by Middlesbrough for the second game in a row – gifting the Tykes a first clean sheet in 17 games at home.

The danger signs had been there throughout before Conor Chaplin beat Aynsley Pears with 17 minutes left. Ryan Shotton, back in the side after a four month lay-off, allowed Chaplin too much time to control, turn and hit the bar from Jacob Brown’s nod down. The Barnsley forward made no mistake from the rebound.

“When you make calls, people will scrutinise what you do,” said Woodgate. “Whether they are right or wrong. People will question you. I’ve got experienced players who I’m sure will turn it around, I have no doubt about that. You might think I’m crazy after the defeat against Barnsley and defeat against Luton but I truly believe that.”