Middlesbrough’s interim head coach Steve Agnew rued the appalling start that led to their 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth but says they will immediately begin to plot a route to survival.
Despite losing Marten de Roon to injury and seeing Gaston Ramirez sent off as they fell nine points from safety, Agnew is adamant they have not given up.
Their performance at the Vitality Stadium, in which they were uncharacteristically poor in defence, left them in 19th, and their five remaining fixtures are against Sunderland, Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool.
However Agnew, who has overseen four defeats and two draws since his appointment, said: “It’s very emotional. There’s lots of angry players, lots of emotional players, as there is staff. We’ll all be in tomorrow morning and address the situation.
“We have to be realistic. It’s a huge, huge challenge, but all we can do is dust ourselves down and get ready for Sunderland (on Wednesday). Every game we need a win. We remain as positive as we can be.
“In many ways we lost the game in the first 10 minutes. That’s not like us. It was really, really poor defending. Playing short passes on the edge of our area is another reason we concede. It’s just naive defending.
“It is (unusual). That’s what disappoints me; it’s not like us. We made mistakes, got punished, and it made it a very, very difficult afternoon.
“I couldn’t see (Ramirez’s first booking) from where I was, the initial one, but if you have a yellow card you have to be very, very careful for the rest of the game.
“Playing with 10 men in the Premier League, against a good team at home who score lots of goals, gave us a very testing afternoon.
“It’s (also) difficult yet to say the extent of the damage (to De Roon’s ankle).”
Referencing the shock death on Friday of club favourite Ugo Ehiogu, he added: “What a sad, sad day. Our condolences go to the family; the supporters were amazing again.”
The result, secured by two first-half goals from Joshua King and Benik Afobe and those in the second from Marc Pugh and Charlie Daniels, lifted Bournemouth to 12th and on to 38 points - seven above the bottom three.
Their manager Eddie Howe, though, insists their Premier League status is not yet safe, and urged them to surpass last season’s points total of 42.
“We’ve still got more points to get before we can say (we’re safe),” he said. “We should be looking upwards, without getting ahead of ourselves, and seeing where we can finish.
“We want to surpass last season’s total of 42. That was always our aim. We’re closing in on that total. If we can play like we did today we’ll be fine.
“It was great to see our fluency with the ball. That hasn’t been there in the last couple of games.
“The referee’s got the decision (regarding Ramirez’s red card) right but if you’re Middlesbrough it’s a hard one to take.”
Bournemouth: Boruc, Adam Smith, Francis, Steve Cook, Daniels, Fraser (Stanislas 72), Arter, Gosling (Lewis Cook 44), Pugh, King (Mousset 84), Afobe. Subs Not Used: Gradel, Allsop, Mings, Cargill. Goals: King 2, Afobe 16, Pugh 65, Daniels 70.
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Barragan (Forshaw 23), Chambers, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Ramirez, de Roon (Da Silva 38), Clayton, Downing, Negredo (Gestede 80). Subs Not Used: Konstantopoulos, Bernardo, Stuani, Traore. Sent Off: Ramirez (20). Booked: Ramirez, Friend, Ayala.
Ref: Graham Scott.