THERE was something singularly incongruous about the manner of Boro’s defeat in the West Country.

For large chunks of the first half, Michael Carrick’s assured team looked to be very much in control of proceedings at Ashton Gate.

Goal-scoring chances might not have been coming thick and fast, but it seemed only a matter of time before Boro found a way to end their hosts’ resistance.

Frequently and methodically they worked their way into decent attacking positions but just lacked that crucial cutting edge in and around their opponents’ penalty box.

Sam Greenwood rightly looked frustrated when he shot straight at goalkeeper Max O’Leary from a promising position. And the on-loan Leeds forward’s disappointment was compounded soon after as Boro’s endeavours failed to reap tangible rewards.

His saw his angled shot bundled in at the far post by Isaiah Jones only for the celebrations to be curtailed by an offside flag.

But then, out of the blue, Bristol City seized the lead with a stunning long-range goal from on-loan West Brom midfielder Taylor Gardner-Hickman on 37 minutes and chaos ensued.

Once the celebrations had died down, Boro were all over the place and before the 1,822 travelling fans knew it, they were two-down as the visitors lost the proverbial plot.

It was a frenetic passage of play that was completely at odds with everything that made Boro manager Carrick such an imperious presence during his time with West Ham, Tottenham and Manchester United.

The Wallsend Boys’ Club product used to personify composure as a classy midfielder and he still does that on the touchline so the bedlam that unfolded left Carrick shrugging his head in disbelief in the technical area.

It was a madcap few minutes that Carrick described as “messy” and “crazy” and he lamented the way his team “shot themselves in the foot”.

“Generally we show more composure but it can happen at times where you lose your grip,” Carrick said afterwards.

“That comes over time with a little bit of trust, belief and confidence and we’ve shown over a period of time that we’re capable of keeping our composure when we’re up against it.

“I didn't expect to see what happened but it’s football and these things can occur. 

“But it’s not something that I’m overly worried about because it does happen and we managed to flip it on its head in the second half and did something similar.

“There were sporadic isolated moments and that’s something we need to manage better. But we’re giving ourselves too much to do and we’ll learn to do better.”

That will certainly apply to Isaiah Jones who lost his head with a back-pass that should have resulted in a second goal but for goalkeeper Seny Dieng’s intervention.

And so too defender Dael Fry who was booked for a foul and then gave away a penalty that Tommy Conway converted in first-half stoppage time.

Boro bounced back soon after the break in quick-fire fashion as an own-goal from Zak Vyner after Matty Crooks rattled the crossbar before the midfielder equalised with a clinical finish after being teed up by Greenwood.

But that extra effort to get back on level terms seemed to take its toll and Boro were unable to find the inspiration required to maintain their momentum and secure a victory that was there for the taking.

Instead, Boro fell behind again when they were undone at a set-piece with centre-back Rob Dickie heading a corner towards goal where Dieng flapped and Mark Sykes volleyed in from close range on 67 minutes.

After that setback, led by Jonny Howson, the visitors rallied and regained the upper hand as they pressed for an equaliser.

But under new Robins boss Liam Manning, taking charge of his first home game since Boro legend Nigel Pearson’s sacking, City never looked like folding under the pressure and held firm.

Boro had their moments, and substitute Sam Silvera very nearly leveled on 80 minutes when his shot struck Max O’Leary’s post but there proved to be no way through a crowded defence.

Josh Coburn entered the fray late on and, thanks to his spell on loan up the road at local rivals Bristol Rovers under Joey Barton, the stage was set for the striker to play role of pantomime villain to perfection.

But Coburn hardly got a sight of goal in his cameo as Boro ran out of steam and succumbed to defeat for the fourth time on their travels this season.