BOSS Aitor Karanka has called in his Middlesbrough players to up their concentration levels ahead of a vital home Championship clash with Brighton & Hove Albion.
Two late goals cost Boro four points last week as they lost 2-1 at Derby and drew 2-2 at Birmingham City.
Poor defending once again cost them three points away at St Andrews, where they failed to deal with a corner deep in injury time as former Arsenal defender Kyle Bartley rose highest to head in an equaliser.
“We conceded in the last minute again,” Karanka said.
“It’s a lack of concentration on set-pieces that has cost us.”
They are problems which have been lingering as far back as the Gordon Strachan era - the inabilty to defend the penalty area.
Despite the problems, Karanka is fairly pleased with the men at the back.
“I am 95 per cent happy with our defence, but it’s that five per cent we need to improve.
“Daniel Ayala came back in and played very well and Ben Gibson played well, other than the penalty.”
The festive period will be critical time for Middlesbrough with the club sitting just four points above the relegation zone after the draw at Birmingham City.
Largely under Karanka the signs have been positive, but closing games out remains a constant problem.
“The attitude of the players is excellent but we must concentrate for the whole game,” Karanka said.
“I’m happy working with them because they are always the same, their attitude is always 100 per cent and it’s easier to work this way.”
On Saturday, Middlesbrough face a Brighton side who are proof of the unpredictability of the Championship, losing to bottom club Barnsley last Tuesday before beating promotion challengers Leicester in convincing fashion on Saturday.
The game will also take the interest of the neutral with former El Clasico Real Madrid v Barcelona rivals, Oscar Garcia and Karanka facing each other for the first time in management.