HALF-TIME: Bristol City 1, Middlesbrough 0
Already without the services of the absent Cole Skuse and unable to deploy Paul Anderson from the start, City boss Sean O’Driscoll saw his side suffer further disruption when in-form striker Jon Stead limped out of the game with an injury after just 18 minutes.
He was replaced by winger Albert Adomah, who found himself in an unfamiliar role as an auxiliary forward alongside top-scorer Steven Davies.
If City reverted to a more orthodox 4-4-2 system after using a five-man midfield to thwart Brighton in midweek, they still required a little time to work out Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray’s 3-4-3 formation and contest was instantly rendered a stalemate.
Set-pieces offered the most likely source of a goal and Robins forward Davies tried his luck with a thunderous free kick that cannoned into the defensive wall. When the ball rebounded back to him, he tried his luck with a dipping volley that presented few problems to Boro keeper Jason Steele.
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Clearly, it was going to take something special to break the deadlock and Adomah conjured a moment of magic after receiving a pass from Neil Kilkenny to put City in front on 33 minutes.
Receiving the ball near the right flank, he stood up George Friend, dropped his shoulder and cut inside before beating Boro keeper Jason Steele all ends up with a left-foot shot that curled in off the inside of the far post.
Adomah’s sixth goal of the season and first since he netted a dramatic late winner at Sheffield Wednesday on December 8, served to illuminate what had hitherto been a largely featureless game.
Let down by poor passing and unable to find a way through a well-organised City defence, Boro were limited to a solitary attempt on goal in the first half, Mustapha Carayol’s shot from range flying high and wide and eliciting ironic jeers from the crowd.