Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka admitted after the defeat at Stoke that the Teessiders have lots of problems - but stressed he would not be quitting.
Boro dropped into the relegation zone as their winless run in the Premier League extended to a 10th match at the bet365 Stadium, slipping down a place to 18th, with Crystal Palace moving up to 17th and three points clear of them after a 2-0 victory at West Brom.
The only thing I can do is work harder every day.
Karanka’s men - the lowest scorers in the division, with just 19 goals - failed to hit the back of the net for a fourth successive league game, and the Spaniard was left disappointed by their defending for both Stoke goals, netted by Marko Arnautovic in the 29th and 42nd minutes.
Discontent among Boro fans at the ground could be heard, with some boos coming from the away section, while at one point there seemed to be a chant for Karanka to “go home”.
Asked about that afterwards, Karanka said: “I didn’t hear. But I came here because the chairman (Steve Gibson) called me three years ago to help the club to be in the Premier League, and I will leave the day that the chairman says.
“The only thing I can do is work harder every day.”
Karanka, who got Boro promoted as Championship runners-up last term, feels there is plenty that needs addressing but emphasised the need to “just keep going”.
He said: “The problem I think is a lot of things - it’s not just one. Because if it was just one, I would fix it, but it’s more than one, more than two, more than three.
“We are in the bottom three in March. For a recently-promoted team to be for the first time in the bottom three in March is because we are doing something well.
“We knew we were going to be fighting until the end to survive and my thought is just to keep going.”
Boro have been pretty solid defensively this season, conceding only 28 goals in their 26 league matches prior to this one.
But after they lost centre-half Daniel Ayala early on against Stoke to a hamstring injury, they looked vulnerable at the back and were unable to stop the impressive Arnautovic, who notched his fine first goal when he controlled Glenn Whelan’s long forward pass, got away from George Friend and Victor Valdes and fired into the net.
Arnautovic then added a close-range finish from Peter Crouch’s header before being forced to depart the field in the 65th minute.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes felt the win for his side - who are up a place to ninth - was “clearly” deserved, and he said of Arnautovic: “It was two good finishes from Marko, who was excellent on the day.
“He had to come off unfortunately because he had a bit of sinusitis and was all blocked up, with it affecting his breathing. But he’s in a good place at the moment.”
Stoke: Grant, Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi (Afellay 87), Pieters, Cameron, Whelan, Arnautovic (Diouf 65), Allen, Sobhi, Crouch (Berahino 79). Subs Not Used: Bardsley, Adam, Walters, Given. Booked: Shawcross. Goals: Arnautovic 29, 42.
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Da Silva, Ayala (Bernardo 8), Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter (Guedioura 75), de Roon, Clayton, Ramirez (Stuani 46), Gestede, Traore. Subs Not Used: Negredo, Guzan, Barragan, Forshaw. Booked: Friend, de Roon.
Att: 27,644 Ref: Craig Pawson.