Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray refused to criticise his players after they lost 1-0 to promotion rivals Cardiff.
Matt Connolly scored the only goal of the game with a header after 19 minutes to condemn Mowbray's side to their first defeat in 10 matches.
"I thought we played pretty well. There is a long way to go in the rest of the season and if we perform like we did today for long spells, then we will be okay," he said.
"Cardiff are a resilient side who defended well and put their bodies on the line. They had to do that. But they got their noses in front.
"With Peter Whittingham's left foot, they are dangerous from set-plays and they scored from one.
"But the longer the game went on the chances came and went for us and, ultimately, we didn't manage to stick one in the back of the net. I picked a team to win the game."