Middlesbrough 2 Wigan Athletic 3: McClaren heads for sun under a black cloud

It is there where the players responsible for a quite pitiful first-half performance against Wigan Athletic are indulging in a week of warm-weather training and team bonding, leaving behind the deepening gloom engulfing Teesside for the bright skies of Marbella.

Where Steve McClaren talked about an opportunity to "clear heads" and "stick together", his club's latest European sojourn could have been better timed. Birmingham City's impressive 5-0 victory against fellow strugglers Portsmouth saw the Blues move to within three points of fourth-bottom Middlesbrough on Saturday. A fight for survival looms.

Even McClaren's players were questioning the merits of a potential PR disaster as they departed yesterday and it was an uncomfortable squad which waved goodbye to mounting pressure and increasing criticism, no doubt fearing a backlash upon their return.

"Hopefully, we can enjoy it out there and come back ready for the next game," said Stewart Downing, barely able to disguise his scepticism. "I know it's a break and the manager thinks we need it, so we have to go. I think the lads are a bit disappointed because we just want to stay and play games. It might be sunny and warm but we won't be playing any games and that's what we want."

Downing's first start since the end of August offered McClaren a rare chink of light on a day when Middlesbrough's various weaknesses were laid brutally bare. Cheering the left-winger's every touch, an otherwise disconsolate Riverside Stadium crowd was grateful for small mercies after woeful defending had allowed Jason Roberts and David Thompson, making his Wigan debut, to give the visitors a fully deserved 2-0 lead within half an hour.

Downing, who later insisted this summer's World Cup finals are furthest from his thoughts, delivered the two corners from which Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Aiyegbeni Yakubu brought Middlesbrough level. However, Neil Mellor's winner 50 seconds from time guaranteed Wigan a sixth Premiership away win this season.

Like Downing, the on-loan Liverpool striker has battled back from a career-threatening knee injury and Mellor admitted: "Days like that have been a long time coming. It's just a great feeling to get back. I have missed football so much and the last year has been extremely hard for me."

Goals: Roberts (2) 0-1; Thompson (29) 0-2; Hasselbaink (56) 1-2; Yakubu (66) 2-2; Mellor (90) 2-3.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Jones; Bates (Johnson, 31), Riggott (Ehiogu, 27), Southgate, Pogatetz; Parnaby, Parlour, Cattermole, Downing; Yakubu, Viduka (Hasselbaink, 46). Substitutes not used: Schwarzer (gk), Doriva.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz, Scharner, Baines; Teale, Bullard, Kavanagh, Thompson (Johansson, 90); Roberts, Mellor. Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Jackson, Francis, Skoko.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Wigan Scharner, Thompson.

Man of the match: Thompson.

Attendance: 27, 208.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore