Troubled Tony Mowbray admitted he is under pressure after angry Boro fans called for his head in the 3-2 defeat at basement battlers Barnsley.
A sizeable section of the 2,000-plus travelling Teessiders chanted “you’re getting sacked in the morning” and both the team and the manager were loudly booed as they trudged off past gesticulating supporters at 3-0 down at the interval at Oakwell.
The supporters were stunned as Paddy McCourt waltzed through for an opener seconds after Lukas Jutkiewicz missed a sitter at the other end – then Chris O’Grady piled on the agony with a deflection and one from the spot.
Boro perked up after the break and lively Albert Adomah struck twice in two minutes late on to offer some hope but it was too little, too late and did little to pacify angry fans or reduce the mounting pressure on Mowbray.
Boro have won just five times in 2013, won just once away this season and are languishing in the bottom half despite the manager bringing in six new players in the summer.
The fans’ patience is wearing very thin while watching chairman Steve Gibson looked equally disappointed.
Mowbray said: “Of course I understand the fans’ frustrations.
“Teessiders are passionate about their team. I know that. I’m a Teessider myself. I know how it feels.
“We all want our team to be winning games and at the top of the table, and when you lose to a team that you think you should beat it is bitterly disappointing and passions run high. I understand that.
“I know a lot of those passions, those frustrations and that dissent is aimed at me. That is part of the modern football world.
“Every manager is under constant pressure. Pressure from fans, from the boardroom, the pressure from yourself, pressure from the job, pressure from social media, that’s the world of football now.
“Then we have modern social networking and phone-ins ... they are platforms for people to express their opinion and I live with that every day and that’s OK. However, it is not about individuals. It’s about whether we feel we are moving in the right direction as a club – not just me but the owner of the football club and the supporters too.
“I don’t think there is a manager in the world who has the total support of his club’s crowd.
“Arsene Wenger was under pressure from frustrated fans on social media and the phone-ins after Arsenal lost to Villa on first day of season. It is part of the job now.”
Boro had good early chances and Jutkiewicz sent a low effort flashing wide then missed a sitter, scooping over after being played through one-on-one.
Within 60 seconds Barnsley were ahead as, from the resulting free-kick, Paddy McCourt skipped through six defenders to stab home the opener on 26 minutes. Barnsley were two up on 41 minutes as O’Brien carried the ball unchallenged then drilled in a 25-yard effort which clipped team-mate Chris O’Grady and deflected home with Boro keeper Jason Steele committed to going the other way.
On 43 minutes it was three, O’Grady firing in from the penalty spot after Ben Gibson brought down Pederson.
After the break Boro started slowly but gradually gained control and momentum to finish in storming fashion.
Kei Kamara brought a good save and had another effort charged down then impressive flanker cut in from the left and fired against the metalwork.
Boro grabbed a lifeline on 82 minutes as Adomah acrobatically hooked home a Richie Smallwood header then two minutes later he stooped to head home scrappily from a Frazer Richardson cross, but despite a frantic last gasp assault Boro couldn’t get the leveller and the season is now stuck in a lay-by after taking just six points from seven games.
Mowbray insisted that, despite the slump, spirit remains high and the team remains behind him.
He added: “It is disappointing we haven’t won as many games as we might have but it is not from any lack of desire.
“The team is very much behind what are trying to do.
“Being three down at the break gave us an uphill task but it was one the players reacted to.”
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele, Richardson, Hines, Gibson, Friend, Whitehead (Smallwood 46), Butterfield (Emnes 46), Leadbitter ©, Adomah, Jutkiewicz (Carayol 66), Kamara. Subs (not used): Konstantopoulos, R Williams, Parnaby, Varga.
BARNSLEY: Butland, Kennedy, Cranie ©, M’voto, Wiseman. Pedersen (Scotland 76), Mellis (Cywka 64), Fox, Perkins, O’Grady, McCourt (O’Brien, 29). Subs (not used): Hassell, Dawson, Jennings, Etuhu.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands) Att: 11,438.