WHEN he eventually retires from football, Neil Warnock really should consider a new career as a pantomime villain in the West Country because he played the role to perfection at Ashton Gate.

Warnock is the man that Bristol City fans have always simply loved to hate and he relished his billing as the anti-hero as Boro ended the Robins’ unbeaten start to the season and knocked them off their Championship perch with an impressive all-round display.

Despite being without key players, the 71-year-old masterminded a victory that was enough to send Boro up to ninth in the league table and meant that Boro have not lost since the opening day of the season at Watford.

Boro were superior throughout the contest and even though City defender Taylor Moore gifted George Saville a second-half winner it was no less than the visitors deserved such was their dominance.

Yet the evening began ominously for Boro supporters with Britt Assombalonga not deemed fit enough to spearhead the visitors’ attack after being withdrawn in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Reading.

Warnock also had to make do without the unfit Grant Hall and Ashley Fletcher which meant a second Boro debut for Patrick Roberts and starting berths for Djed Spence and Marvin Johnson.

Boro did not even have a striker among their complement of substitutes but made light of a lack of attacking resources as they dominated the opening exchanges.

Indeed, Chuba Akpom spurned a decent fifth minute opening when Manchester City loanee Roberts teed him up from the by-line after being played in by Jonny Howson but his effort was blocked.

Akpom continued to threaten and almost opened the scoring in the 20th minute when he set his sights on Dan Bentley from a tight angle but saw his shot tipped over.

It was beginning to look like one of those nights for Akpom as he failed to make the most of the first clear-cut opening, unable to connect properly after sterling work by George Saville and seeing the ball drift wide of the target.

Warnock would have been forgiven for ruing the absence of Assombalonga who has scored five goals in his eight appearances against the West Country side.

It was no surprise when Warnock was left cursing on the touchline when centre-back Dael Fry went forward for Paddy McNair’s free-kick only to blow another chance by miscuing with the City defence and sixes and sevens.

At the other end, Marcus Bettinelli did not have a notable save in the driving rain, thanks mainly to Spence who blocked Jamie Paterson’s goal-bound effort as City upped their game.

Boro began the second half as they began the first and continued to enjoy the upper hand against a team who looked anything but Championship pacesetters.

Warnock must have been impressed with the way his team kept calling the shots and the mounting pressure got to City’s skipper, Alfie Mawson, who was taken off by stretcher after a desperate, last-ditch challenge to stop the marauding Spence.

Former Boro defender Tomas Kalas came on to replace Mawson, who looked to have suffered a knee injury, in the 58th minute, just before his team pressed the self-destruct button.

There seemed little if any danger in the 73rd minute when Bentley shaped to take a goal-kick but Saville clearly sniffed an opening and took maximum advantage.

Bentley made the mistake of passing the ball out to Taylor Moore who had one of those rushes of blood that Sunday League defenders get every now and again.

He tried to dribble the ball past Saville who saw it coming and promptly dispossessed the former England youth international before confidently beating Bentley with a low drive.

Warnock punched the area in delight before being embraced by coaching staff on the sidelines while Moore was consoled by Bentley.

Boro remained head and shoulders above City with Howson impressing in the midfield trenches and never really looked likely to surrender their advantage.

City raised their game late on following a ponderous evening’s work against well-organised and sprightly opponents who played with a boyish enthusiasm that would have thrilled Warnock. There was a late scare when Tyreeq Makinson claimed to have been pushed in the area by McNair but his pleas fell on deaf ears.