ON A night when the Riverside Stadium was used to announce new flights from Teesside Airport to Spain, Middlesbrough showed enough heart and spirit to suggest Jonathan Woodgate’s season-long journey might not lead to League One.

But despite pushing promotion contenders Leeds United in the second half, Boro succumbed to another defeat on an occasion yet again when they edged a step closer to the Championship relegation zone – leaving the boos to ring out from the home support.

While Middlesbrough fans might be able to fly from Teesside Airport to Alicante this summer, the prospect of European football seems a million miles away to this crop of players who have a massive fight on their hands to avoid a trip to Accrington next season instead.

Mateusz Klich’s fine opener in first half stoppage-time, the only time the excellent goalkeeper Aynsley Pears was beaten, was enough to extend Middlesbrough’s winless run to 11 matches, nine in the league.

That allowed Wigan and Barnsley below them to close the gap after both secured victories last night, the Latics now level on points and sitting just below Middlesbrough on goal difference in the bottom three.

Head coach Jonathan Woodgate, whose side had failed to beat any of the bottom three in their previous outings, did perform better than they had in recent weeks and yet that was still not enough to breathe new life into the battle to stay up.

Middlesbrough have 11 games remaining to save their season, and all eyes turn to Woodgate’s next move when another promotion contender, Nottingham Forest, head to the North-East on Monday.

Leeds arrived with their huge band of supporters clearly intent on taking another step in the direction of the Premier League.

But Woodgate, a former Whites player under growing pressure from the fans, was out to make his own mark and he took the decision to include Adam Clayton in his side.

The 31-year-old, out of contract in the summer, had not figured for more than a month but his familiarity at playing a defensive role is stronger than everyone else in the squad, and it was deemed his tenacity was required against an automatic, free-flowing promotion contender.

Middlesbrough started well enough too. Clayton and George Saville did what was expected of them in breaking up Leeds’ play, and that helped the home side make early progress.

Marcus Tavernier and Hayden Coulson were two other changes to the side that lost to Barnsley, as Woodgate looked to bring some fresh energy in the final third, and those two had plenty of the ball initially.

It was Leeds who were gifted the best early chance. Former Middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford headed down into the arms of Pears from Luke Ayling’s cross when he was left unmarked eight yards out.

The flag stayed down and it looked easier to score. Bamford also went close when he turned Jack Harrison’s low cross wide of the near post, but Middlesbrough also looked threatening on the counter at times early on – with Lewis Wing side-footing one chance wide after Ashley Fletcher had found him.

As the half wore on, Leeds controlled the ball more and more even if Middlesbrough got occasional breaks like when Fletcher struck an effort wide with half-time edging closer.

Before that Pears had been forced into two more strong saves. His first was the best when he got down low to his left to turn away a half volley from former Middlesbrough loan signing Harrison behind. His next was at his near post to push Bamford’s strike away for a corner.

And, moments after complaints of a free-kick at the other end went unrewarded, Leeds made the most of a poor pass from George Friend that didn’t reach Saville. Klich nipped in, the in-form midfielder, who tormented Middlesbrough at Elland Road, played to Bamford before continuing his run to the area where he was on hand to link up with Hernandez on the edge of the area after his initial shot had rocketed off the post. Klich made no mistake with his opportunity, picking out Pears’ bottom corner with power and precision.

Both sides were quick to make an impression after the restart and Saville, having been picked out in space moments after a tricky run by Coulson, was the man to record Middlesbrough’s first meaningful shot on target in two-and-a-half games when Casilla tipped his thunderbolt from distance behind for a corner.

Pears had to make just as good a save from Hernandez’s goalbound effort seconds later too, but Middlesbrough kept plugging away. Moments after Friend was replaced by Marvin Johnson, Coulson picked out Tavernier on the right of the area and his effort shaved the top of the bar.

That gave Middlesbrough the confidence to finish strongly, but the problem remained testing the keeper because the Leeds backline defended strongly when the ball came their way. Ryan Shotton and Harold Moukoudi did likewise at the other end.

Casilla had to hold another effort from Tavernier after a Wing free-kick was initially blocked, as Middlesbrough went in search of an elusive equaliser. It never arrived and Middlesbrough, for all of their endeavour, will now need a kickstart against Nottingham Forest next week.