By Rob Nichols
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Boro were felled by a shocking defeat at the Riverside yesterday. It was a performance and result that really turned the tables as Bristol City hadn't won in eleven games and were in all kinds of trouble in the relegation zone. Amazing how The Robins always seem to beat us up here. What a shock to the system that 3-1 reverse was.
The match started in swirling fog, the weather getting worse and worse until maybe backed up by all the burgers at half time it was hard to see the other end. Just as well as it prevented us seeing Bristol City sinking us with goals lost somewhere in the gloom. But by the end the mist had lifted and unfortunately we could see only too clearly the third goal rip into the net. We left with that sinking feeling. Two successive defeats have really given us a massive jolt.
Boro started with a different line-up yesterday. How we missed the width and stamina of George Friend down the flank. Switching Hoyte to cover seemed to hamper his advances and it was a surprise to see Stuart Parnaby declaring himself fit, I guess needs must for the team. It was a shame for Matthew Bates that he wasn't fit to receive an ovation from the Riverside crowd. Last season's skipper has bravely battled back from a fifth cruciate operation. Let's hope that he is able to prove his fitness again over the next couple of months in the Championship.
Upfront for Boro, there was a new pairing of Miller and the Juke and early on the two seemed to prosper together. Miller's powerful running left defenders trailing but his cross was too fierce for Jutkiewicz and almost took his block off as he tried to head it him from 5 yards out. But by this time the visitors had already showed us how it should be done.
Bristol City's speed and movement caused us problems all match long. Bryan it was that darted for the byline and pulled back for Adomah to gun the ball into the net. It had been a rapier like move that was later to be repeated in the second period for the second goal as they played in a manner of a top of the table side rather than a team that hasn't won since September.
Boro bounced back when City not for the first or last time were unable to clear a corner. I guess without Stephen McManus or Matthew Bates their defences were depleted. Ishmael Miller again proved he is the man with the eye for the goal in the box when he fired home from 6 yards out.
This ought to have been the signal for Boro to now launch forward and grab a comfortable victory. That has been the pattern in recent games against Bolton and Charlton but Bristol City posted more warning shots with their counter attacking. Steele had to fling himself to his left and show a really strong left arm to divert the ball wide. Mind you, Ledesma almost made it 2-1 right on half time when his wicked shot only just bounced around the post.
In the second half Boro almost took a lucky lead but it should have counted. City's keeper flapped the ball out from a corner but punched it onto the post and back over his head to be hacked clear from behind the line. It was difficult one for the officials to see, fog or no fog but it looked in from where I was sitting. Then again, we might easily have been trailing again immediately after. The ball went right up the other end and with Steele beaten, the visitors hammered it against the cross bar and down, almost but not quite crossing the line.
If our (fortuitous) goal had been given it would have made a world of difference, instead Bristol City took the lead again when Danns (how on earth did such a good player become available on loan to City?) cut back for Pearson to score. Pearson had already missed a sitter in the first half, so we couldn't say we weren't warned.
Boro's push for an equaliser was fuelled by subs, McDonald, Thomson and Luke Williams but it was hampered by our own ill discipline as we started to argue with officials and lose our composure. Hardly surprising of course as we were crashing to another defeat. With Boro pushing on we left gaps which Robins sub Steven Davies exploited with a real blockbuster shot. It was maybe even his first touch and what a damaging one for Boro. The ground emptied almost immediately.
So a bad defeat, very damaging indeed. Although it could easily have been worse had others, notably Palace not also sliped up and so we have not slipped too far down the table. And be thankful we have a game on Tuesday. A difficult game v Huddersfield but one in which we must look to repair the damage.
Boro 1-3 Bristol City