JONATHAN WOODGATE was heartened by Middlesbrough’s “fighting spirit” after watching his relegation strugglers’ winless run extend to 11 matches courtesy of a 1-0 defeat to promotion contenders Leeds United at the Riverside Stadium.

Mateusz Klich’s winner in first half stoppage-time was enough to separate the two teams on a night of contrasting outcomes for the two clubs.

While Leeds’ charge to the Premier League was boosted with a win that leaves them five points clear of third placed Fulham, Middlesbrough’s relegation concerns increased.

Only goal difference, which is now down to just two, keeps Middlesbrough from occupying a place in the bottom three after Wigan won 3-0 at Reading.

Barnsley and Luton also won their respective games in midweek to increase the pressure on Middlesbrough, who could be in the drop zone by the time they face Nottingham Forest at the Riverside on Monday night.

Middlesbrough struggled to get in behind the Leeds defence but they still managed a couple of decent efforts on target, having gone back-to-back matches without testing the keeper against Barnsley and Luton.

Woodgate said: “The players are going to be disappointed. I expect them to be disappointed no matter what if you lose games, but they are still there and they are still fighting and they’ll keep on fighting.

“It’s tight, it’s even tighter now isn’t it? But I concentrate on our team, that’s the best thing to do.”

Middlesbrough now have the worst scoring record in the division, having found the net 34 times in their 35 matches. They need to find some creativity from somewhere having been poor with the final ball for a while now as they look to win for only the ninth time in the league this season.

“You can say that about Marcus Tavernier but I tell you what he’s got courage, especially when the fans are having a moan and a groan,” said Woodgate.

“At times he gives the ball away but I tell you what he gets back on it again and doesn’t shy away from it and takes responsibility and is a leader, that’s what I want to see from my players. I want to see if my players give it away, they get on it again. Tav did that.

"You looked at how we played at Elland Road we played with a back three and got annihilated really. I thought tonight was miles better and if we play like that we’ll be OK.

“At times the quality wasn’t great but we need to create chances for the frontmen to score goals. We created chances, I wouldn’t say glaring opportunities but we created chances and we have done for most of the season. The last few games, especially against Barnsley, we didn’t but apart from that we have.”

Middlesbrough have also not kept a clean sheet since New Year’s Day and Aynsley Pears made a string of superb saves to prevent Leeds from scoring more. The winning goal stemmed from a misplaced George Friend pass inside to George Saville, despite claims for a foul.

“It’s the same as when we went to Leeds, it’s the last 20 seconds of the half. All you’ve got to do is turn and put it in the corner and he’s played a square pass,” said Woodgate.

“Sav gets blocked, they go down the other end and they score. That’s the frustrating thing. By the way I thought we should have had a penalty from Lewis Wing’s free-kick, I thought it was a clear hand ball, it didn’t get given so you move on.”

Friend and Ahsley Fletcher had to be both withdrawn with suspected hamstring problems, but overall Woodgate was satisfied with the changes he made – with Hayden Coulson, Adam Clayton and Tavernier all brought back in.

He said: “Clayts I thought he did very well. Hayden was electrifying down the left, I thought he was very good. He’s more of a winger than a left-back, I think that’s shown most of the season.

“I thought he was really, really good. He’s naturally a left-winger. George hasn’t been fit for most of the season so he’s had to do a job at left-back.”