Tony Mowbray has demanded his smarting side make Huddersfield Town feel a Boro backlash tomorrow night after a stinging lesson at Loftus Road.
Ailing Middlesbrough were humbled in a one-sided 2-0 defeat at table-topping QPR which showed exactly how far short they were of a promotion push.
The damage was done with an early own goal and penalty, but it was alarming how easily Harry Redknapp’s Rampant Rangers picked misfiring Boro apart.
The league leaders carved through a creaky defeat at will while at the other end shot-shy Boro never looked like stopping Rangers clock up a club record seventh clean sheet.
“That was well below the required standard, particularly in first half,” blasted Mowbray, whose team has won just once in 10 games this season.
“They’ve been told, it was an unacceptable performance.
“It was a bad day. It was a disappointing day. It was probably as poor as we’ve been this season. We just didn’t compete.
“We will look at it, analyse it and try to put things right quickly because we need to improve dramatically in every area for the next game.
“We need to see a positive reaction now. We have game on Tuesday against Huddersfield and we have to resolve the issues and make sure we play the way we know we can play.”
Mowbray admitted there was a gulf between Boro and the runaway leaders but said he had still expected his side to compete.
He added: “It was a bad show from us and maybe it is because we have played the best team in the league,.
“Make no mistake, QPR are a very good team. They have been very expensively assembled and they have a lot of Premier League players in their mix.
“Sometimes good players can make other players look very average and in that game we had a lot of very average players on the pitch.
“That is really frustrating because we came here looking for a good performance against them and we fell well short. I genuinely thought we could go there and win.
“We had a game plan we thought could get us a result but when you go down a goal down after four minutes to a team who haven’t conceded in six games you’re facing an uphill task.”
Boro suffered a nightmare start as they leaked an own goal after only four minutes.
A cross in from former Newcastle man Danny Simpson was punched away by goalkeeper Jason Steele and fell to the edge of the box, where another former Magpie Joey Barton lashed in a low shot which clipped the shins of defender Fraser Richardson and flashed in.
After that it was one-ay traffic and Steele had to save twice then Barton and former Boro man Gary O’Neil sent shots just wide. It was game over on 35 minutes when Rangers sealed if from the spot.
Steele blocked a shot then, when O’Neil stabbed the rebound goalwards, it hit the hand of unfortunate Ben Gibson, making his league debut, and the referee whistled for a penalty which Charlie Austin hammered home.
Boro had more possession in the second half and two tame shots straight at QPR goal keeper Green but the the damage was done and carefree Rangers never looked in any danger.
To add injury to insult, Jonathan Woodgate limped off at half-time, although Mowbray hopes to quickly conclude a deal to bring in a defender on loan before this week’s two home games.
The manager insists morale at the Riverside remains upbeat.
He said: “The belief in the side is good. We had a bad day at the office but performance levels all season has been high and spirit is good. We just have to stop silly goals going in.
“We know the areas we need to strengthen and we’re working on that. Were trying to build a team which will be competitive in this league but you will have bad days along the way.”
QPR: Green; Simpson, Dunne, Hill (Ehmer, 78), Assou-Ekotto, Austin, Carroll, Barton, Kranjcar (Hoilet 82), Faurlin (Henry 79), O’Neil. Subs (not used): Murphy, Traore, Jenas, Chevanton. Booked: O’Neil, Simpson.
Goals: Barton 4, Austin 35 pen.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele; Richardson, Woodgate (c) (Parnaby 46), Gibson, Friend, Butterfield (Smallwood, 67), Leadbitter, Varga (Jutkiewicz 46), Whitehead, Adomah, Kamara. Subs (not used): Leutwiler, Hoyte, Halliday, Carayol, Smallwood. Booked: Whitehead, Gibson, Adomah.
Referee: Darren Deadman (Peterborough). Att: 17,081