AFTER the highs of Wednesday night’s win over Birmingham City, Middlesbrough showed a lack of energy and an inability to defend set pieces against Millwall, the view of interim boss Leo Percovich.

Zian Flemming’s brace condemned Boro to defeat at the Den. A deflected free-kick and a second half strike from a long free-kick into the box did the damage in South London.

Managerless Boro slipped to 20th in the Championship table as a result. After today’s performance, there may well be an urgent need to find a successor to Chris Wilder. The club are currently in the process of recruiting a new man at the helm and Michael Carrick is the current frontrunner for the job with club chiefs set to meet with the former Manchester United midfielder in the near future.

On today’s display, the short turnaround from the win over the Blues at the Riverside had it’s part to play as Percovich said after the game: “You feel quite sad for the situation but at the same time, positive for what I saw today.

“36 hours ago, we were playing for the result (against Birmingham), trying to survive and keep a clean sheet. Today, we tried to keep possession of the ball and penetrate between the defensive lines.

“We find that early set pieces cost the first goal with the deflection and then we tried to stay in the game. Stay positive with possession and build confidence. Don’t rush until we find the right moment. We came back better in the second half until they scored another set piece.

“When you are coming to Millwall and you are watching all of the videos, you know they are direct and very strong from set pieces. You have to organise the lines. This time, it cost the game for us.

“The first goal is disappointing. First I think the ball goes out of play. Then we concede a sloppy free-kick and it gets the deflection and goes in the opposite direction the goalkeeper expects. The deflection was difficult and it hurts so early in the game. But we had to be ready to recover and come back and we tried to keep the ball and build opportunities, but we couldn’t find any today.”

With Boro two goals down in the early stages of the second half, they were unable to find their way through a resilient Lions defence.

The Uruguayan had his reasons for that as he continued: “We tried to build something but I also felt the team ran out of energy. We were flat after the emotion during the week. It was a hard game on Wednesday and the early goal took a little energy out of us.

“We tried to find the spaces but they defended very good. They are ahead and then tried to defend. We tried to penetrate but we couldn’t find the right spaces to be more positive with the ball.”