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Mowbray admits six wins is a minimum requirement for Boro
TONY Mowbray has admitted Middlesbrough will have to win more than half of their remaining matches to secure a place in the Championship play-offs.
Tuesday's dramatic defeat at Huddersfield left Boro two points off Brighton in the final play-off place ahead of this afternoon's trip to basement boys Bristol City.
With ten games remaining, the Teessiders are on 54 points and have dropped below Nottingham Forest into eighth position, their lowest placing since early October.
Last season, Cardiff filled the final play-off place with 75 points, and 12 months earlier, Nottingham Forest finished sixth with an identical points total.
To attain the same tally, Boro would have to win seven of their last ten games or pick up six wins and three draws, and while a slightly lower total might suffice this time around, Mowbray accepts six victories is likely to be a minimum requirement in the next two months.
"The starting point for us is that we have to strive to get more points than we got last season (when they finished on 70)," said the Boro boss. "If you don't get over 70 points, you're not going to make the play-offs.
"We're on 54 points now, so you're going to have to win at least five of your last ten games. You would hope to get six or seven.
"I think seven wins would definitely get you there - if it was six you'd probably be touch and go on the last day of the season. Five might not be enough depending on how other results go. Let's wait and see."
On the evidence of their form since the turn of the year, a target of seven wins from the last ten games would appear beyond Boro's capabilities.
The Teessiders have claimed just two victories from their 11 league outings in 2013, a sequence that would give them no chance of making the play-offs if it was to be mirrored in the remainder of the campaign.
Between September and November, however, they strung together a ten-game run that included just one defeat, and having attained such levels once, Mowbray is confident his players are capable of hitting similar heights once again.
"We've been on that kind of run earlier in the season," he said. "Statistics can drive you mad. We were three minutes away from winning back-to-back games on Tuesday, then we would have been heading to the team that's bottom of the table looking to make it three on the bounce before entertaining a Birmingham side that are having a tough time of it hoping to make it four.
"If that had happened, people would have been asking how we had turned it round, yet nothing would have changed really. It's just fine margin games.
"We lost a game the other day because of our inability to defend an 87th-minute corner basically, which we'd defended pretty well for the other 87 minutes. It's fine lines, yet the result is everything."
If Boro are to catapult themselves back into the top six, the form of striker Scott McDonald is likely to be crucial.
The Australian scored his 12th goal of the season on Tuesday night and has bolstered Boro's attacking threat following his recent return from injury.
For all that he was out of favour at the start of campaign and will be touted around potential employers again in the summer, the 29-year-old remains the Teessiders' likeliest source of goals.
And with Lukas Jutkiewicz having been left out of today's squad despite having returned to training earlier this week, McDonald is set to be a pivotal performer as Boro look to halt a Bristol City resurgence at Ashton Gate.
"Scott's been fantastic since he came back into the fray," said Mowbray. "I'm sure he didn't enjoy the start of the season, just as none of us took any pleasure out of the situation we all found ourselves in either.
"I feel as though he's been a breath of fresh air since then. He probably still has traits that can rub people up the wrong way, but that's his personality. He wants to win, and that's how it manifests. But he's done exceptionally well and is probably our main goal threat.
"He might disagree, but I feel he's at his very best coming in off the left-hand side on his right foot. I think he's better like that than with his back to goal trying to get through the middle.
"Scott sees himself as a centre-forward, as I do, but I feel that with the way we are as a team at the moment, it suits him coming in off the wider area and ghosting in to the kind of areas he scored from at Huddersfield."