A lack of urgency, sloppy in possession and blunt up front: Middlesbrough and Neil Warnock's problems highlighted in QPR loss

Ashley Fletcher sees a shot saved against QPR.Ashley Fletcher sees a shot saved against QPR.
Ashley Fletcher sees a shot saved against QPR.
It’s starting to feel very real. Middlesbrough are sinking further and further into trouble and they only have five games left to turn things around.

Sunday’s 1-0 home defeat by QPR was their worst performance yet under new boss Neil Warnock. After falling behind to Jordan Hugill’s 32nd-minute strike, the Teessiders never really looked like salvaging a point from this drab and mundane affair.

The table certainly makes for bleak reading after 41 games with Boro lying inside the relegation zone. Yes, Wigan are set to face a points penalty after going into administration, yet that story may not have run its cause.

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Some may have raised an eyebrow when Warnock said keeping Boro up is probably his toughest job yet. After this performance, that seems a fair assessment.

The Boro boss threw a tactical curveball before kick-off in what looked like an attack-minded side.

The inclusion of Ravel Morrison alongside Patrick Roberts, Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher certainly showed intent to try and resolve his side’s lack of goals, yet still Boro’s attack looked blunt for large spells.

That quartet of offensive players required a defensive tweak, with centre-back Harold Moukoudi starting in a holding midfield role behind Morrison and George Saville.

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In possession, it looked like a 4-1-2-3 formation with Ashely Fletcher on the left and Roberts on the right, though the latter was also required to keep tabs on QPR wing-back Ryan Manning.

Despite some early scares on that flank, with Rangers playmaker Eberechi Eze fancying his chances against full-back Jonny Howson, Boro’s system appeared to match-up well in the early exchanges.

It was the same story at Hull on Thursday evening, yet that creative spark was still missing.

Aside from Roberts cutting in from the right it was hard to see how Boro were going to break the visitors down, with a back three of Osman Kakay, Yohan Baret and Geoff Cameron standing firm.

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There were moments when Boro forced Rangers keeper Joe Lumley into action as the visiting shot-stopper kept out Fletcher from a tight angle. Even so, clear-cut chances weren’t forthcoming.

Any momentum Boro appeared to have evaporated on 32 minutes when Rangers struck a pivotal blow – and it was a man who knows Teesside well.

Hugill is from this area and was on loan at the Riverside during a frustrating campaign for the striker last season.

Here, though, he showed what Boro are missing with a clinical finish from the edge of the area which looped over goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic.

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From there QPR took control, showing composure on the ball and keeping Boro at arm’s length.

Worryingly for Warnock, Rangers are the sort of team Boro will have wanted to face, a side which had lost all three games since the restart and seemingly had little to play for.

Yet the Teessiders rarely looked like taking advantage after falling behind. They were sloppy in possession and there was seemingly little urgency going forward.

Roberts, who is still recovering from a long-term hamstring injury, lasted longer than at Stoke or Hull but was withdrawn on 80 minutes.

After that Boro went down with a whimper.