Final score: Reading 2 Middlesbrough 0
AITOR KARANKA last night blamed himself for failing to give Middlesbrough's players the lift required to prevent back-to-back defeats in the final two weeks of the Championship season.
Boro slipped to a second reversal in four days at the Madejski Stadium when Reading held on to a two-goal advantage sealed inside the opening 14 minutes.
Adam Le Fondre, who has interested Middlesbrough in the past, struck the opener in the ninth minute before George Friend converted a Jordan Obita free-kick in to his own net during a disastrous start by Boro.
Middlesbrough's play-off chances were effectively over following Saturday's defeat to Millwall but the loss to Reading, who have climbed back in to the top six, made it impossible to claim a play-off spot.
But rather than point the finger at his players for under-performing in Berkshire, Karanka chose to shoulder the responsibility on himself.
The former Real Madrid No 2 said: “Two games two defeats. It was two very bad games. We had bad games with our attitude. We had four games to finish the season well and the last two games have been very, very bad.
“Against Millwall and the same tonight, we played two teams who wanted to win, Millwall and Reading. One team, our team, didn't want to win. That's my fault because I didn't know how to motivate them.
“For the future, I will learn things. For me, whether we finish in eighth or 14th, we should finish in the same way, the right way. I have to motivate the players to finish in the right way. I will choose the right players for the next two games.”
Middlesbrough play two teams struggling to avoid relegation – Barnsley and Yeovil - to finish the campaign and he is determined to see improvements starting this Saturday at the Riverside.
He tried to ensure his team performed better last night by making four changes to the side which lost to Millwall – and he will not be afraid to make further alterations.
He said: “I made changes because we had a game on Saturday, then again four days later, and we have another game on Saturday. I felt the best thing was to change some players.
“But what happened was I didn't seem to know how to motivate the players. That's something for me to learn for the future. For the next game I will try to motivate them to win.
“It's a problem that we have not got the play-offs to battle for. When you are competitive you always want to win.
“If you have a chance to finish top six then the players want to win. It is not the same to finish in eighth or ninth, everyone wants to finish the season with something to fight for. We have to learn to finish stronger than we have regardless of where we are in the table.”
Karanka uncharacteristically spent the vast majority of the night at the Madjeski Stadium sat in the dug-out, rather than head in to the technical area like he normally does.
He said: “I prefer not to say why I stayed on the bench. I prefer to say that I couldn't motivate the players. This is a learning experience, every day. This is my first season and I am learning about the league and the players every day.”