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Mowbray admits it's time to get "back to business"
TONY Mowbray admits Middlesbrough have to get “back to business” as they focus their attention on the Championship promotion race following their FA Cup exit at the hands of Chelsea.
Boro crashed out of the FA Cup at the fifth-round stage yesterday evening as second-half goals from Fernando Torres and Victor Moses condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at the Riverside.
While Chelsea can prepare for a quarter-final at Old Trafford, Boro's sole focus in the final two months of the season will be the pursuit of a play-off place and a return to the Premier League.
Last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Millwall, which was Boro's seventh league reverse since the start of the year, sent the Teessiders tumbling out of the top six for the first time since mid-October, and Mowbray admits it is imperative they begin to put things right when league leaders Cardiff City visit the Riverside on Saturday.
“We've got 12 games left now,” said the Boro boss. “For six months of this season, we've been in the top six and we've been threatening the top two for most of that time. We've obviously fallen off the pace in the last six weeks, for whatever reason, be that injury or the fact we've also been involved in cup competitions.
“We've had some big games in the cups this season, playing against Premier League sides such as Sunderland and Swansea in the Capital One Cup and then Chelsea tonight.
“But we have to get back to business now. We have to start winning football matches again and our only concern this year is to try to get out of this league.
“The top two looks beyond us now, but we've got every chance of finishing in the top six, as a lot of other clubs have as well of course. We've got a 12-game season to achieve that goal.”
Last night's performance was arguably the best Boro have produced in 2013, with the hosts matching the reigning European champions for long periods.
The Teessiders shaded a tight first half, with Scott McDonald spurning the best chance created by either side when he headed Nicky Bailey's cross wide of the upright.
Chelsea's opener was the result of a huge slice of fortune, with Ramires' shot deflecting off Torres' shoulder to wrong-foot Jason Steele, before Boro's fate was sealed when Moses rounded off a slick passing move with 17 minutes left.
Nevertheless, after some of the club's parlous recent performances, the strength of Boro's all-round display provided a welcome reminder of their efforts in the first half of the season.
“I thought we worked hard,” said Mowbray. “We stuck to the plan and had a go. The frustration is that the first goal took a pretty big deflection off Torres, who was trying to get out of the way.
“You could feel their threat, as you would expect, but for 50 minutes or so, we probably had the better chances. The dressing room is disappointed, even though we didn't go into the game with a huge expectation.
“You need the first goal against these top teams so you can take them out of their comfort zone a little bit. They have top players who can play at the tempo they want to play at.
“We tried to play high up the pitch to try to put them under a bit of pressure, so they couldn't just keep the ball at the back, which is a gamble because if they pass through you, they can hurt you.
“But I thought we did okay. We needed a break to score the first goal and even though we had a few chances, it didn't come.”
Another downside to the evening was the first-half hamstring injury sustained by Andre Bikey, which will keep him out of this weekend's game.
“Andre's been carrying a hamstring problem for three weeks now,” said Mowbray. “Footballers tend to know their bodies and he's got through games, yet because you don't really get a rest in the Championship, it was probably going to go sooner or later.
“He's damaged it tonight, but it was probably worth the risk for us. We've got cover in that position with (Seb) Hines coming back and the fact (Jonathan) Woodgate won't be that far away. It was worth taking the risk.”
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