MIDDLESBROUGH skipper Matthew Bates has urged fans to look at the bigger picture despite the heart-break of the last two results.
Tony Mowbray’s side were aiming to be closer – if not ahead – of the Championship’s top two of Southampton and West Ham going into the New Year fixtures.
However, in their games against Peterborough and Blackpool, they could only manage one point out of a potential six. A late equaliser at the Riverside denied them victory against the former while a lacklustre display saw them easily beaten by the latter.
It was a missed opportunity as six points, even four, would have strengthened their push for promotion – instead of seeing them hovering on the fringes of one of the two automatic spots.
However disappointing the last few days might have been though, Boro are in a much healthier position than they were this time last year.
The Teessiders were in with a chance of leaving the Championship back then – but were heading in the wrong direction with League One a very real prospect as they languished in the bottom three.
And it is that scenario that Bates wants the supporters who may be hurting from the Blackpool debacle to take into account, as despite those last two results Middlesbrough are still firmly in contention for promotion to the Premier League.
Bates said: “We have to look at the bigger picture, that’s what we need to reflect on over the next two weeks. If we can replicate in the second half of the season what we did in the first, we shouldn’t be too far away.
“The next four months are going to go very quickly. I’m massively proud to captain this football club. Last year was a good year for the club and for me personally. I’m not a dreamer, the hope is that this year will be a big one for the football club as well.
“There will be a lot of ups and downs, but if we approach every game the way we did in 2011, we shouldn’t be too far off. Don’t get too downhearted and we should be all right.”
Even so, Yates and his team-mates can do without the kind of off-days that they had on the Lancashire coast earlier this week, but the captain says that despite what has happened before, Boro must pick themselves up and get back on the winning trail right away – starting with Saturday’s FA Cup tie at home to Shrewsbury.
He continued: “(At Blackpool) we didn’t turn up, for whatever reason. Players don’t intentionally have a bad game, but we had a bad one and Blackpool probably played the best they have this season – and the two combined made for a bad days for us.
“I suppose there were one or two bright spots in the game, but they scored with their first three chances of the second half and I was fouled in the build-up to the second goal. I felt the lad barged me from behind.
“He admitted afterwards he thought it was a foul – most people did – but these things happen. You get on with it, and what we need to do is make sure we keep the back-to-back defeats record intact.
“It would have been better if it (the Shrewsbury cup-tie) was a league game in my opinion. But we have two weeks to the next one. In that time we have to remember we have had a good half to the season.”
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray has been nominated for December’s Championship Manager of the Month. Other nominees include Sean Dyche (Watford), Eddie Howe (Burnley) and Brian McDermott (Reading). Midfielder Nicky Bailey has also been nominated for the Player of the Month award alongside along with Alex Pearce (Reading), Ricardo Vaz Te (Barnsley), Kieran Trippier (Burnley).