ONSIDE: Still reasons to be cheerful for Middlesbrough

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WORRY not. The Boro may of lost three out of the last four in the ever-unpredictable Championship but it’s not time to panic.

A week on and I’m still at a loss as to how we quite managed to leave St Andrews with nothing.

Thirty minutes in and Lee Clark was looking at a banner sending him on his way – an hour later and the few Brummies who turned out were celebrating a victory which, until Andre Bikey stupidly poked out a leg and floored Marlon King in the 46th minute, looked most unlikely.

Boro dominated the first half and should have had the game wrapped up. Stupid mistakes cost us.

Boro dominated at Cardiff but missed chances and again left with nothing.

The performances aren’t lacking – the points on the board are.

But if we ever wanted to be gifted the chance to fire back into winning ways then surely a visit to the basement club is exactly that.

Saturday’s trip south to London Road, as well as giving the die-hards the much-loved chance to stand in the terraces and watch the Boro, is the ideal way to hopefully kick start a three point-packed Christmas period.

If we perform and pass like we did in the first half at Brum, we should play them off the park.

Next Wednesday’s trip to Wales for our now-traditional Capital One Cup away tie is a case of anything-is-a-bonus against an in-form Swansea side.

Then comes the four games which will determine exactly where we stand going into the new year.

Wolves at home, a festive funday at Elland Road, the visit of Blackburn Rovers minus Steve Kean and then the final match of the calendar year at home to unpredictable Blackpool.

Starting on Saturday, a minimum of 10 points from 15 is needed.

Last year our promotion bid began to unravel at New Year, not helped by unnecessary and extremely damaging injuries to our spine, Rhys Williams and Nicky Bailey.

This time out we should be welcoming back Rolls Rhys, sorely-missed Jonathan Woodgate and Muzzy Carayol.

Despite being five points adrift of Cardiff, whose season should finish five games early when their Premier League dreams collapse and they hobble out of the play-offs, the Boro are still in touch.

At this stage of the season I tend to look at how far ahead we are of seventh as opposed to how far behind second.

But a repeat of three defeats out of four in the next string of vital games could prove hugely damaging and leave us playing catch up in the second half of the season.

– DOM SHAW