GARRY MONK shook hands with Bristol City manager Lee Johnson and his backroom team before briefly raising his hands to applaud the 981 visiting Middlesbrough supporters, and then he was out of sight and off down the tunnel, writes Rob Stewart.

The Boro boss had clearly had enough, and his swift exit from the Ashton Gate stage wasn’t so much down to the rowdy strains of The Wurzels’ song ‘Drink Up Thy Zider’ that echoed around the West Country as the insipid second-half display of own expensively-assembled ensemble.

Not only had they been given a run for their money by their promotion rivals throughout a goalless first half that their hosts shaded, they were then given the runaround as Bristol City completely dominated proceedings after the break.

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It was enough to turn any Boro fan to drink as the locals rejoiced to the sounds of The Wurzels, but for Monk the whole experience had been a sobering one as his side was outplayed, outfought and overrun by opponents who were just too full of zest.

“I feel angry and disappointed so it is up to me to clear my mind and work through it with the players and work hard but it hurts,” said Monk.

“I expected a lot more. We had a lot of strong discussions this week about that desire to show a reaction following a disappointing second half against Derby.

“But I am determined to work hard and make this club successful and that is what I will do. I want this for the club and the players, and if we have to go through hard times to get there I am more than willing for that.”

With Boro skipper Ben Gibson in commanding form and evidently determined to lead by example, the early signs were promising for the Teessiders.

Pressure was soaked up without too much fuss and the sprightly Adama Traore and Britt Assombalonga suggested they would eventually pick off inconsistent opponents who had lost their previous home game 2-1 to off-form Preston.

Indeed, Bristol City wobbled when left-back Fabio Da Silva tried his luck from distance and goalkeeper Frank Fielding was left counting his blessings when the swerving shot rebounded off his chest.

Boro looked to be in the mood to bounce back in style following the humiliating 3-0 home defeat by Derby, but Monk’s players lost their way after the interval and were caught out on the break twice in three minutes in almost identical fashion.

First, Joe Bryan, a left-back playing at wing-back, stole in unmarked at the far post to nod in a delicious cross in the 51st minute by Australian skipper Bailey Wright, a centre-back pressed into right-back duties.

Mistakes do happen and are forgivable, but what would have been unforgivable for the Boro fans huddled together behind Darren Randolph’s goal was the failure to learn from mistakes.

That meant things went from bad to worse three minutes later when Boro were dealt an ultimately decisive blow after Stewart Downing’s free-kick from a promising position was charged down.

Suddenly, Boro were all over the place as City poured forward in numbers, and this time towering centre-half Aden Flint popped up on the right flank from where he delivered a delicious low cross that Jamie Paterson swept past Randolph.

“We were talking about getting in at the back because that was a weakness of theirs and both goals came from that,” Paterson said.

It would have been easy for Boro fans to see what was coming as the fleet-footed team in red tore into the visitors, so it’s a pity for them that none of Monk’s players were on a similar wavelength.

Indeed, Monk’s players just weren’t at it after the half-time pot of tea and the way Boro fell apart underlined a lack of resilience with Lee Johnson’s side maintaining a tight grip on proceedings thanks to what unfolded in central midfield.

Boro’s midfield duo Adam Forshaw and Jonny Howson were leaden and ponderous in their holding positions compared to the feisty, more mobile Korey Smith and Marlon Pack, while the mercurial Paterson was a constant menace just in front of Monk’s defenders.

In contrast, Assombalonga hardly got a look-in, and Boro were only thrown a lifeline thanks to Iceland international Hordur Magnusson who casually headed a cross beyond Fielding in the 75th minute for an own-goal.

At that stage, Rudy Gestede had already been sent on to invigorate the Boro attack, but with Downing having been replaced by Marvin Johnson, the most obvious supply line to a striker who thrives in the air had been removed.

The stage was set for a thrilling finale, but the fact one never materialised was the most damning indictment of Monk’s team who were kept at bay with ease.

“This hurts,” Monk added. “I have tried to be a winner all my career and my determination and my heart are never going to change.

“The fans would have expected a lot, lot more and I can only apologise to them. It is not acceptable. They spend a lot of money to follow us and we have not given them what they deserve. I take my responsibility and if there is any criticism, then aim it at me.”