NEIL WARNOCK admits he does not expect to extract much enjoyment from Middlesbough’s remaining seven matches – after conceding that Friday’s 3-1 defeat at Bournemouth effectively ended their hopes of making the play-offs.

Boro entertain high-flying Watford this lunch-time, but even if they were to beat the side currently flying high in second position in the table, it would still be a huge ask to scramble into the top six before the end of the season.

Monday’s defeat has left the Teessiders seven points adrift of the play-off positions – the gap would be nine if Bournemouth were to add three points for their game in hand – and with just six more games to play after today, it would take a remarkable sequence of events for Boro to finish in a top-six spot.

Having spent most of his 40-year managerial career battling for promotion in the final weeks of the season, Warnock admits he will find it strange to have nothing to play for in the next month. Nevertheless, he will be urging his players not to allow their campaign to peter out.

“You have to go through the seven games,” said the Boro boss. “I don’t think I’ll enjoy it, but I won’t be chucking the towel in. I want us to get as many points as possible and finish in the top ten. The lads have done really well, I can’t fault them.”

Warnock will oversee a summer of considerable change on Teesside, with a number of senior players set to leave. Britt Assombalonga will depart as a free agent, and it is looking increasingly likely that his fellow forward, Ashley Fletcher, will also follow him through the exit door. Hayden Coulson, a peripheral figure under Warnock, will be sold, while there are decisions to be made over Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, whose short-term deal is due to expire at the end of the season, and loanees Marcus Bettinelli, Yannick Bolasie and Neeskens Kebano.

Warnock has already made up his mind about the vast majority of his players, although he admits there are still a couple who could force him into a rethink over the next few weeks.

“Most of the players, I know who is going to be part of my plans,” he said. “There might be the odd one or two who have got something to show me, but in my heart of hearts, I know more or less what I want. I think it’s an exciting time, especially if we get them rabble rousers back in the stadium. I think it’s a fabulous time to be Middlesbrough manager. I’m quite excited.”

Boro have already announced their pre-season plans, with Warnock sticking with his tried-and-tested schedule of having a summer trip to Cornwall.

The Teessiders will take on Saltash United (July 19), Tavistock AFC (July 21) and Plymouth Argyle (July 23). It is hoped supporters will be able to attend all three games.

Middlesbrough (probable, 4-2-3-1): Bettinelli; Fisher, Hall, McNair, Bola; Howson, Saville; Mendez-Laing, Kebano, Bolasie; Akpom.