Boro found themselves on a winning streak in the league and flirting with first place at the start of the year, then came the defeats on the road to Arsenal, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth and Watford.
Karanka’s men had promotion in their own hands with only a few games to spare, but looking back the 12 points dropped to Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, plus the two draws versus Blackburn proved costly as Boro entered the final week with nothing to play for, having already secured their extension to the Championship season.
Karanka has always admitted a playoff position was the objective in August and now it is time to see what the manager and players are made of, starting with a tricky away trip to Griffin Park.
The manager has stressed how important these games are and that Boro have to “live for the moment” to avoid replicating what struggling Brighton and relegated Wigan did after their stint in the playoffs last season.
The next few weeks building up to the Wembley final at the end of May will be a nail-biting, rollercoaster ride for all Boro fans, even more so than the fatal blow at Craven Cottage, where Ross McCormack’s injury time winner ended automatic promotion chances after a highly eventful occasion.
Middlesbrough had the biggest home attendance (vs Brighton) and largest away following (vs Blackburn) of the Championship this season and it is because of this type of support that Boro fans deserve a day in the capital.
The perfect scenario would be to replace Sunderland or Newcastle United in the top tier come August after a successful Wembley outing, but from experiences down the years Boro fans are all too well aware that the club never do things the easy way.