JONATHAN WOODGATE has defended his team selection for Middlesbrough’s 3-0 home defeat to Swansea City, but admitted his side were “very poor” as they conceded three goals in a disastrous first half.

Woodgate left Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Patrick Roberts on the substitutes’ bench, preferring instead to start with Rudy Gestede and Lukas Nmecha in attack.

Gestede and Nmecha failed to record a single effort on target as Boro failed to test Swansea goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, but it still took until the 69th minute for Assombalonga and Fletcher to come on to the field.

Woodgate said: “I thought Rudy was very good in the last game against Charlton. He put in a really good performance, and Nmecha has looked really good in the training sessions. That was the reason I went with them.

“Patrick’s not 100 per cent fit. He’s not 100 per cent yet, but he will get fit. He’ll be involved a lot more with the games, but I have to be careful with him because he’s been out for six months with a hamstring injury and hamstrings can be a very difficult muscle to treat.

“He’s getting fitter and he’s getting back. That’s the only real positive out of it – Patrick has come through 45 minutes in the second half. Apart from that, there weren’t many (other positives).”

Harold Moukoudi was not involved in the squad at all, but the Frenchman is suffering from an illness and should be available for next weekend’s trip to Stoke.

Boro were undone as they conceded two goals in the space of three minutes, with Rhian Brewster slotting home from close range before volleying a second strike past Dejan Stojanovic.

Swansea claimed a third goal 11 minutes before the break, with Andre Ayew slotting home from the spot after George Friend fouled Conor Gallagher.

Woodgate admitted: “I thought we were very poor, and I thought we got cut open at times too easily. They’ve got some exceptional players in Brewster, Conor Gallagher and Andre Ayew, who we just couldn’t pick up.

“It’s hard to explain that performance, and it’s not nice to see. It was the basics of the game at times – following your runners, not turning your back on the ball, organisation. It wasn’t good enough.

“The message at half-time was that something had to change, hence why I made the changes. It was slightly better in the second half, but that’s always going to be the case, you can’t have a first half as bad as that.

“There was no sign of that performance at all, that was why I was stunned on the sideline watching that. In the week, if you’d seen how we were training, it was very good. So, to then have a performance like that just isn’t good enough. It’s a concerning thing, but we’ve got a week to put it right now and then the games will come thick and fast.”