WHEN the final whistle was blown at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday night to bring an end to the ninth Championship game without a win for Middlesbrough, Jonathan Woodgate was left to hear boos ring out from the home fans once more.

It was pretty much expected, even though Boro had turned in a better display against automatic promotion chasers Leeds United and yet still came away with nothing.

Losing to a dangerous and exciting Leeds side is certainly no disgrace at this stage of the season, but the crowd’s reaction was not really a reflection of how Middlesbrough played that night, it was a culmination of this season’s frustrations so far.

Before this run of winless games, Middlesbrough had a decent period that raised hope of a better campaign after a dreadful start to the campaign which had also seen them drop into relegation trouble and included a ten-match sequence without a win.

The difference this time is that it has included a three-match run of just one point from the games against the teams in the bottom three, Wigan Athletic, Luton Town and Barnsley, losing to the latter two. Now it is Nottingham Forest on Monday and how Woodgate could do with a win to raise spirits ahead of the final ten matches.

Criticism of Woodgate is growing again among the fans, but his local roots have bought him a bit of time and Middlesbrough supporters are also appreciative of a more financially stringent period since he took over last summer. Important team members left and were replaced by three summer outfield recruits, two of which have been farmed out on loan.

Woodgate has a good relationship with Steve Gibson, his chairman, and Neil Bausor, the club’s chief executive. All of them bought into the dream of being able to turn the club around, including a drive to use produce more first team players from the academy. He does not sense there has been a change in thinking.

When asked what Gibson and Bausor have had to say, Woodgate said: “Stay positive. Positive words. They believed in the project at the start and it hasn’t been great, but when you have a vision of doing it you keep on going. They believe in what is happening. It hasn’t been great at times but we believe there will be results around the corner.”

While there has clearly been a tightening in the club’s spending and a drive to reduce the club’s wage bill following the fall from the Premier League after just one season, he does think Gibson appreciates the job he has taken on at the Riverside.

Woodgate said: “He’s not daft. He knows the craic. He knows that.”

Middlesbrough will head into the visit of Nottingham Forest looking for a result that can breathe new life into the fight for survival. Another disappointing scoreline and the Teesside crowd will be quick to let them know their disappointment again. He accepts that, after all he is one of those fans.

“It makes me stronger. Stronger,” said Woodgate. “You get a lot of criticism, I have had it throughout my career, and you fight. It is the only way I know. That’s what I will continue to do.”

Earlier in the interview Woodgate claimed he would walk away from the job if the time was right, but he is adamant he is the man to turn things around and he is confident he can do. He feels the sticky patch before December’s turnaround will help in this situation now.

“We have learned from it,” said Woodgate. “What I took from that, that part of the season, was being positive, not blaming people, blame yourself. You don’t blame others. Take responsibility.”

Middlesbrough’s perilous position is largely down to a poor scoring record, having found the net just 34 times in 35 games this season. The fact they have not kept a clean sheet since New Year’s Day has clearly been reflected in results.

“We scored 49 last season,” said Woodgate. “What you see in training you hope the penny will drop. Can you get them to do what you want them to do week in and week out? Have they got the talent to do that? You still need the talent. You can have all the energy in the world but have you got the talent to do it? Last season we didn’t score many goals and this season has been the same.”