What a Difference a Win Makes
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 15 Apr 2018 11:27:00
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Boro have finally defeated bogey team Bristol City at the Riverside and our reward is that the whole play off promotion world has opened up for us once more. Half time at Bramall Lane it was despair, full time at the Riverside we were suddenly propelled up to the fifth place in the league. What a difference a win can make.

Boro showed immense character from not only bouncing back from the defeat at Sheff U but overcoming an early deficit to play off rivals Bristol City. Results elsewhere played into our hands. We capitalised on the early kick off 1-1 draw between rivals Sheff U and Millwall in the steel city.

It was big defenders we had to thank for grabbing our goals. George Friend had a storming goal-scoring game, at the back as well as the front, Daniel Ayala was imperious and powered home his third goal in three games to clinch victory.

It was Grand National Saturday and for once it wasn't raining or sub-Arctic conditions. Boro fans came in hope we could return to the winning form that saw off Aitor's Nottingham Forest a week ago. We were also keeping our fingers crossed that we could brush off that first half mauling suffered in Sheffield. With Adam Clayton replacing the suspended Grant Leadbitter in midfield we hoped his warrior spirit would again help drive the team on as we did in the second half of that match on Tuesday night.

Early signs were good as we attacked Bristol and set Jonny Howson on his way for an early attempt at goal. But very soon the pendulum started to swing the other way and as so so often this season we were pushed onto the back foot and conceding a soft, early goal. Milan Djuric broke our hearts when he stole in between Friend and Ayala to finish agonisingly beyond the grasping finger tips of Darren Randolph. The Boro fans could not believe their eyes. Not again!

We then had to weather a bit of pressure and corners and ride our luck. Also we can thank Randolph for coming out and taking charge of his box. So often this season, we have conceded one and then all but been knocked out of the contest by quickly shipping a second goal. Just think back to recent encounters with Wolves as well as Sheff Utd. On Saturday we kept the deficit down and slowly but surely started to rebuild and take the game back to our opponents again.

It was the corners of Adama Traore that proved the undoing for the visitors and the finishing from them of course. Tony Pulis sides always pose a threat from set pieces and his Boro team are now no exception to that trend. George Friend powered forward down the left and won a corner. The left back then glanced home Traore's corner into the net. He went mad, we went mad. We were back in the game in the middle of the first half and this time we were determined not to let it slip out of our hands.

There was a sickening collision with Patrick Bamford making an awful landing and appearing to be knocked cold. The opposition players and referee immediately waved on the medics as he was clearly in a bad state. It was about all of a ten minute delay as everyone was concerned for the health of the big forward. It was a massive boost to hear via twitter that he was conscious and talking long before the game was over. Thank goodness for that.

The Bamford incident meant there was a whopping 11 minutes to be added on to play. Boro came so close to taking the lead in that time added on. Traore, playing like his old self again, drove for the line, cut the ball back and then there was pinball in the box as Besic and Downing saw efforts blocked before sub Assombalonga had his back heel cleared off the line. City escaped to half time.

In the second period Traore continued to have the better of his full back and winger as he moved outside and inside at pace. Clayton, Besic and Howson worked tirelessly through the centre. Downing and Friend were combining with great effect down left so once again Bristol City found it hard to strike forward and were penned back.

Midway through the half the Robins defence opened up at a Traore corner from our left, everyone went with the runs of Shotton, Gibson and Friend leaving Ayala at the back post to power home. Not even a despairing lunge from a defender on the line could prevent the ball crossing the line. Gettinthere!

Boro now looked for a third goal to kill off the game. Although we didn't succeed in scoring again the fans were very thankful for us not sitting back on the lead. Bristol City looked shaken and made mistakes in and out of possession. We brought on first Fabio (to an ovation) and then Cranie to box it up. Even though Bobby Reid blazed over a late chance Boro held on for a big, big victory.

Derby's defeat, following the Sheff U v Millwall draw really opened the league up for us. We took full advantage and moved on up. Things could continue to shift week by week but suddenly opponents Derby and Millwall have very difficult fixtures ahead. And of course Middlesbrough are included in those games.

Once again we have our destiny in our own hands again. You cannot really ask for any more with three games of the season remaining. If we make the play offs and wherever else it takes us we could look back at the spirit shown in the second half at Bramall Lane and in fighting back v Bristol City as absolutely vital.

Up The Boro

Middlesbrough 2-1 Bristol City – Friend, Ayala.




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