TONY Mowbray is calling on his depleted Middlesbrough side to bounce back from a double blow tomorrow night.
Boro travel to the capital to take on pre-season Championship favourites West Ham after capitulating against fellow promotion rivals Birmingham City.
The dire 3-0 defeat, which saw City leapfrog the Teessiders in the Championship, was compounded by the news that versatile Aussie Rhys Williams could miss the rest of the season.
His ankle is in a cast for the next two to three weeks due to ligament damage and the extent of the injury will only become clear when the cast comes off.
With key men Williams and Barry Robson missing, his players never got a grip of the game at St Andrew’s and were 1-0 down with just 11 minutes gone as Nikola Zigic headed home.
All hopes of a comeback were erased before the hour mark in three terrible second half minutes that saw former Boro loanee Marlon King slot past Jason Steele before Keith Fahey ran from his home half to score.
“You have to put them (defeats) in perspective and you have to move on to the next game,” said Mowbray, who believes his players can quickly overcome their recent dip in form.
“If we go to West Ham Tuesday and get a positive result and follow it up with a victory at home (against Bristol City) then everything is looking rosy again
“If we lose Tuesday, then Saturday becomes a very, very tough game for us.”
The Boro boss, pictured below, has always said the run-in begins with 10 games to go – and they start tomorrow.
He added: “I have seen enough over the last 36 games to make me think we can go there and get something.
“You get to know your players and they can bounce back from the adversity of a poor result.”
Things started well against the Blues, with Lukas Jutkiewicz forcing Boaz Myhill to save at full stretch as Boro countered after just three minutes.
However, the impressive Chris Burke was given plenty of time to cross for the lofty Zigic, who was unchallenged inside the six yard box as he nodded the ball in – to the anger of Boro’s defence, who claimed he was offside.
And it was Burke who cut the ball low across the six yard box for Marlon King to make it 2-0.
Just moments later, sloppy play by Thomson gifted the ball to Fahey, who had the space and time to run the ball into the Teessiders’ box and calmly sidefoot it past Steele.
Birmingham: Myhill; Ramage (Ibanez 53), Caldwell (capt), Davies, Murphy; Burke, N’Daw, Fahey, Townsend (Elliott 79); Zigic, King (Huseklepp 75).
Subs not used: Gomis, Redmond.
Goals: Zigic 11, King 57, Fahey 60
Booked: N’Daw 14 (foul), Caldwell 71 (foul).
Boro: Steele; McMahon, Bates (capt), Hines; Hoyte (Main 72), Bailey, Thomson, Arca (Smallwood 72), Bennett; Hammill (Martin 72); Jutkiewicz.
Subs not used: Emnes, Ogbeche.
Booked: McMahon 62 (foul), Bennett 92 (foul)
Referee: Graham Scott, Oxfordshire