RARELY has Michael Carrick been so open in telling of his frustrations.

Middlesbrough's head coach is usually at pains to point to positives and Boro have played far worse this season - this month - than they did in the draw with Blackburn on Saturday, but as the head coach admitted, "it's winning that matters" at this stage.

Such is the position Boro find themselves in, with such little room for error if they're to stand any chance of extending their season beyond 46 games.

That they find themselves in this position is largely because of results like Saturday's. Boro have now played eight out of the current bottom nine at the Riverside this season and won only once. They've picked up just six points out of a possible 24 in those games. What could have been.

The next two games after the international break are away at Southampton and at home to Sheffield Wednesday. As ridiculous as it sounds, Boro's record this season suggests they're more likely to beat the promotion chasing Saints than lowly Owls.

In reality, Boro need to win just about every one of their remaining eight games if they're to sneak into the top six through the back door. Carrick admitted as much, and, interestingly, says Boro will now "let loose" after the break and must "attack games".

They started against Blackburn with that intent but lost their way and their spark. The second half was laboured and flat, Rovers grew in confidence and while Boro had the better of the chances, visiting boss John Eustace told afterwards of his disappointment that his side hadn't won it.

He still hasn't won a game as Blackburn boss, Rovers have still only won once since mid-December and are still just three points above the drop zone. This was a missed opportunity for Boro.


And it wasn't just the result that could prove damaging for Boro. Marcus Forss's first half withdrawal with a hamstring injury was a concern, with Carrick now facing a nervous wait to see how that settles. That's also the case with the knee injury that forced Rav van den Berg to miss Saturday's game.

In the absence of the classy young Dutchman, Boro still managed to keep a third successive clean sheet, the big plus point on the day. Luke Ayling, Paddy McNair and Matt Clarke all again impressed. Blackburn were largely limited to shots from distance.

It was further forward where Boro came up short and disappointed. Lewis O'Brien, Riley McGree and Finn Azaz - who replaced Forss - all struggled. Forss missed a sitter early on and Isaiah Jones hit the bar in the last minute. In between, Boro huffed and puffed but the Riverside crowd were hoping for rather than expecting an opener.

Boro have managed just 20 goals in their 19 home games this season, 13 fewer than they've scored on their travels.

And with Norwich beating Stoke on Saturday, the gap to to the top six that was five points is now seven.

“The bigger picture is what it is," said Carrick.

"We’ve got to try and win games, almost let loose a little bit and try and go for it, attack games and see where it takes us.

"We’re behind the eight ball at the moment and there’s a little bit of work to do. But I don’t think we can focus too much on that. We’ve got two quickfire games when we come back, focus on them and being right for them and see what we can pick up. In the end, we’ll end up where we end up."

Do Boro's players still believe?

“It’s possible," said Carrick.

"The belief has to be for the next game. Can you win the next game? And then can you win the next game? It’s still there to play for - the points are there to make up. We’ll see."