FULL-TIME: Adomah and Davies shoot Bristol City to 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at Ashton Gate
Albert Adomah and Steven Davies were on target as Bristol City beat Middlesbrough 2-0 at Ashton Gate to take another crucial step towards npower Championship safety.
City extended their unbeaten home record to six games and kept a third successive clean sheet, producing a performance that will further build confidence ahead of next weekend’s crunch relegation battle against Wolves at Molineux.
Boro’s play-off hopes suffered another blow as they slumped to a second defeat in four days, but they only had themselves to blame.
The visitors dominated possession for long periods without ever looking likely to penetrate a well-drilled City defence.
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In contrast, the Robins proved more effective when they had the ball and substitute Adomah, an 18th minute replacement for injured calf victim Jon Stead, fired them ahead with a glorious shot from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute.
Davies netted his 12th goal in 13 starts early in the second half, after which only a combination of poor finishing and last-ditch defending denied City an even more convincing margin of victory.
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 Adomah, who found himself in an unfamiliar role as an auxiliary forward alongside top-scorer 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.
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.
City required a second goal to afford them breathing space and it arrived seven minutes into the second half. Kilkenny found Stephen Pearson from a quickly-taken free kick and his pass put Davies in a one-on-one situation with Boro centre-back Rhys Williams.
City’s top-scorer shimmied before unleashing a shot that went between the defender’s legs and beat partially unsighted keeper Steele from 15 yards out. It was no less than the Robins deserved for another disciplined performance.
Having withdrawn Friend and sent on Andy Halliday at half time, Boro boss Mowbray took off striker Marvin Emnes and sent on Curtis Main in a bid to salvage something from the game.
But it was City who looked the more likely to score and Elliott was fractionally wide with a first-time shot from the edge of the penalty area, while Steele made a fine save to deny Davies when he was clear through.
Once again, City maintained their shape and discipline to frustrate a side that had started the day just two points outside of the play-off positions.
For all their possession, Boro scarcely summoned a meaningful attempt on goal and the home side saw the game out without any alarms.
City (4-4-2): Heaton; Moloney, Nyatanga, Fontaine, Cunningham; Kelly, Elliott, Kilkenny, Pearson; Davies (Baldock 80), Stead (Adomah 18, sub Howard 89).
Middlesbrough (3-4-3): Steele; Williams, Woodgate, McManus; Dyer, Bailey (Ledesma 75), Smallwood, Friend (Halliday 46); McDonald, Emnes (Main 53), Carayol.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)