NEIL WARNOCK admitted that Middlesbrough’s 2-0 defeat at Barnsley simply confirmed the areas of the squad that he needs to improve this summer.

Boro’s faltering play-off hopes were all-but-extinguished as they were beaten at Oakwell, with the loss leaving the Teessiders 11 points of the top six with five games to play.

Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli was badly at fault as Alex Mowatt opened the scoring direct from a corner and, at the other end, the visitors barely created a chance as they failed to score for the second time in the last three away games.

Warnock said: “We went through exactly how the game was going to be, and it was just like we said. We really competed well and had the best chances really. If we’d taken one of the chances, we’d have won the game, but the longer the game goes on, you know they’re going to get something. And then what can you say about a goal like that, really?

“That’s why we’ve got to change it. I just apologised to Jonny Howson in there. I thought he was absolutely the man of the match. I thought he covered every blade of grass. I told him, ‘You don’t deserve to be on the losing side today – but trust me, you’ll enjoy next season’.

“I don’t know what to say, really. It’s not a day to be honest today – it’s a day to say what we’ve been saying for the last few weeks really. We need to improve the squad, and I think today demonstrated where we need to improve.”

Boro’s lack of attacking firepower was evident throughout, with Chuba Akpom, Duncan Watmore and Neeskens Kebano failing to offer a threat in the opening 68 minutes, and Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Yannick Bolasie failing to alter the course of the game after coming off the bench.

Things were better at the other end, and while Warnock will make wholesale changes to his attack this summer, he can at least take some solace from the fact that his defence does not need a radical overhaul.

Warnock said: “I was disappointed with a couple of lads, and I told them after the game, but I thought the two centre-halves were fabulous, and Jonny Howson was out of this world.

“He’s covering at right-back tackling, and then the next minute he’s down the right wing and up the middle. I thought he was an absolute credit today, in a horrible game.”