Beleaguered Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has urged his players to banish the fear factor and fight for Barclays Premier League survival after stumbling to their 14th top-flight game without a win.
Boro's drab goalless draw with Wigan left them languishing second from bottom of the table and facing the daunting visit of title-chasing Liverpool to the Riverside Stadium next week.
Southgate said: "We showed a little bit of fear and we've got to be a little bit braver. We've got enough attacking talent on the field to pose questions and although we gave everything we didn't have enough."
Apart from a low first-half effort from Stewart Downing and a late drive from Gary O'Neil Southgate's men showed little attacking flair and with pressure mounting he admitted it was time to throw caution to the wind.
Southgate added: "We've got to work with these players and encourage them and get the best we possibly can out of them. It's not that they don't want to do it - they know what they want to do but it's not happening for them.
"Every one of the players and staff is up for the fight. We know it's going to be extremely tough and everybody outside our club thinks we are gone but there's a lot of football to be played and points to go for."
But Southgate must fear the worst after another grim display which brought smatterings of resigned boos from the home crowd and which also saw the loss of Frenchman Didier Digard to injury.
Digard spent the night in hospital for tests on an injured thigh after a challenge by former Boro midfielder Lee Cattermole which incensed the home fans but which looked on television replays to be fair.
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