REGARDLESS of where Middlesbrough end up, some of the flaws of this season have been laid bare for fans to see especially in the weekend’s performance.

The damning defeat to Hull City put the spotlight on numerous problems on the pitch. It doesn’t seem fair to single certain players or positions out but if Boro fail to make it into the play-offs this season, then there has to be some form of accountability and several reasons as to why.

With a crucial six game run in to come, would it make sense to have that once the football calendar has reached it’s conclusion? Fans may not be so patient in voicing their opinions but from a coaching stand point, it’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Maintaining the confidence of Boro’s players will be crucial for the run in but the demands are so great to reach the play-offs that right now, players will have to step up. And that may require a stern reality check from within.

A case in point. Unfortunately, if a goalkeeper makes a mistake then the blame can rarely lie elsewhere. The coveted number one shirt that seems to have been unconvincing all the way through the season, often taken by summer signing Joe Lumley.

When he was signed on a free transfer having been released by Queens Park Rangers, the opportunity was laid bare for him to grasp a place in a Championship side having played second fiddle in recent years. If you were to ask the Boro fans whether he’s taken his opportunity, they might disagree.

When looking back on the highlights of games throughout the season where Boro have conceded, you often hear the co-commentator say ‘the goalkeeper has got to do better’. For the first time this season, we heard manager Chris Wilder say those words at the weekend.

“Disappointing goal, the goalkeeper needs to do better” a frustrated manager said after the loss to Hull.

“I’ve protected him for quite a while now, Joe (Lumley). There is no real hiding place there, it is another poor goal. We talked about him coming on his right foot.”

Keane Lewis-Potter’s strike was in a similar vein to the goal scored by Hakim Ziyech in Boro’s defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup. Before BBC Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray describes Lumley being caught ‘flat footed’, summariser Jermaine Jenas adds: “I think Lumley will be disappointed with that. I may be a bit harsh but I’m expecting a bit more from him there.”

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It makes complete sense to protect the confidence of a goalkeeper which perhaps hasn’t always been there throughout the course of his career. When Lumley returned to his old stomping ground back in February and gift wrapped a goal for QPR midfielder Chris Willock, Wilder was quick to defend his goalkeeper after the game as he said: “Obviously we’ll highlight Joe’s mistake but it came from numerous errors. That’s a collective mistake. There are two or three situations before Joe’s we could have done better with.

“Joe will take the rap and I understand that, but he shouldn’t. There were various opportunities to spin it round which we didn’t take.”

From a manager’s perspective, protecting players is important but asking a football fan to protect a player after putting on a bad performance is like asking Boris Johnson to admit to any wrongdoing in the Partygate scandal. It probably won’t happen but you live in hope. But can Boro afford to wait until the until the end of the season for their players to have some accountability?

We have seen bright moments from the shotstopper this season. He’s kept 13 clean sheets over the course of the season. While the manager said he didn’t have a great amount to do for some of those games, it is a feather in his cap. We saw his influence in Boro’s FA Cup win over Tottenham where he somehow managed to keep them out on numerous occasions.

However, when we reach the end of the season, how much of the good will outweigh the bad? That question can be asked in several other positions on the pitch.

It wouldn’t be fair to single anyone out for all of Boro’s problems. Their season has been on an upward trajectory since Wilder took the reigns. But because of their upward curve and general improvement of performances on the pitch, fans will feel a sense of frustration at sitting outside the play-offs with six games to go.

The opposite end of the pitch leaves a fair amount to be desired as well. There isn’t a Boro player in the squad that has reached double figures this season with Matt Crooks standing as the club’s top scorer on nine goals. The loss to the Tigers also highlighted their inability to break teams down. In their defence, Hull were very good at frustrating the home side but the lack of goals may well prove to be their ultimate downfall this season. For all the improvements to the way they play, all five strikers have scored a combined total of 25 goals.

It certainly is a tight rope to walk. Maybe it would be argued that this conversation would not be happening 20 or even 10 years ago. But as Wilder said, the players need to dust themselves off after recent back-to-back defeats. No doubt conversations will be going on behind the scenes but finger pointing perhaps needs to wait until the season is done and dusted. Especially given that Boro are still right in the hunt for the top six.