Mowbray seeks Cardiff win to relieve pressure on Boro
TONY MOWBRAY admitted that his Middlesbrough players are feeling the pressure after seven points from his first seven games has left Boro second bottom in the Championship. While it is a month since Boro's last win, at Scunthorpe on November 9, Boro have not been comprehensively outplayed in games against Swansea City, Millwall, Hull City and Coventry, and it is this reason that Mowbray is confident his side can get back to winning ways against Cardiff City today. He said: This group of players, when you put it into context, at the start of the season were favourites to win the league. So I think there is a type of pressure on the team to turn things around. From this position it's highly unlikely we're going to go on and win the league, but we need to start to put together some results and try to build from there, and try to put a team together that, next year, will be very challenging and strong in this division. First and foremost, we've got to get ourselves out of trouble. On paper at least, two tables at opposing ends of the table seems like a mismatch, but Cardiff have taken just one win from the last six games, giving Mowbray confidence that Boro can exploit any weaknesses against the Bluebirds today. He said: If they're strong up front, you think there maybe a weakness at the back, and maybe we should try to exploit that. We do have to be very mindful of becoming over-committed and leaving us vulnerable at the back. That doesn't mean we should set out defensively and let them attack, but as long as you set the team up correctly and the players know their responsibilities, then we should give them a stern test. As it stood this week they were second in the league, that shows how good they are. There's a consistency about the players, the likes of McPhail and Whittingham are good football players and Cardiff have been a good football team. To that type of player they've added Craig Bellamy, while Jay Bothroyd has broken into the England team. Michael Chopra and Andy Keogh are both threats, they've got threats all over the pitch, they are a very potent, attacking force, I don't think they've accrued the number of points they would have liked in the last six games, but they are a dangerous team. We have to respect that but not fear it and look forward to the challenge over the weekend. Cardiff's one to watch', for many, will be Craig Bellamy, and his inclusion today will certainly give Mowbray lots to think about. He said: The addition of Craig Bellamy to any Championship team is a gift from heaven. He's a fantastic footballer, great speed and a great record. He's scored some vital goals already. What he does is put teams on the back foot, has genuine pace and drive. We're aware of that. It's a great challenge, second top against second bottom, we're at home. Our recent performances have not given us the reward of points we have possibly deserved, but we're looking forward to the challenge. If we can handle their strikers, then hopefully we can give them a stern test this weekend. Whatever the result today, Mowbray is looking for Boro to put a shift in for the full match. He said: Since I arrived, the great frustration is the inability to put together a full 90-minute performance. We've played well for 45 minutes then had an insipid 45 minutes. Against Coventry, it was probably our best performance because once we'd seen off their initial bombardment of corners and crosses, I thought we generally controlled the match from start to finish yet we didn't manage to score. Then there was the Palace game, where we won, it was only the second half we performed, first half was poor. We haven't managed to find a 90- minute performance and do that week after week. When we're at our best, we're more than a match for anybody in this league, but we need to find that for more minutes on the field than we've been showing. Whilst we haven't been winning football games, there have been positive signs and the players will take the positives from that. Mowbray will hold a signing session in the club's store on Monday, 4-5pm. Meanwhile, Boro legends Craig Hignett and Curtis Fleming will hold a signing session in the same store 5-6pm on Thursday, December 16. Mowbray will sign items of MFC merchandise, as well as copies of the new Middlesbrough Former Players Association 2011 calendar, which features images of Mowbray, Pallister and Hignett drawn by Boro artist Richard Piers Rayner.
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