MIDDLESBROUGH’S wait for a first home league win of 2024 continues after they crashed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bristol City.

Michael Carrick’s side have slipped six points adrift of the play-off places, with their latest loss meaning they have now picked up just five points from the last available 15 in the Championship.

They were undone by the concession of two goals in the space of two minutes in the first quarter of the game, with Jason Knight and Matty James making the most of some lacklustre Boro defending.

The Teessiders improved slightly as they dominated possession in the second half, but with Sam Greenwood once again failing to convince as a central striker, they never really looked like scoring until Finn Azaz’s stoppage-time shot deflected home off the back of substitute Sammy Silvera. Without a natural centre-forward in their side, Boro looked extremely blunt.

Middlesbrough’s recent record against Bristol City makes for grim reading, but even in his worst nightmares, Carrick could not have envisaged his side making such a shocking start.

The Teessiders almost conceded the opener when Harry Cornick broke into the left-hand side of the area in the 13th minute, but Tom Glover made a fine save down to his left.

However, there was nothing the Boro goalkeeper could do as the Riverside was rocked by two Bristol City goals in the space of two minutes shortly after the quarter-hour mark.

Rob Dickie was the architect of the first, unlocking a wide-open Boro defence with a through ball to Knight. The City forward turned inside Lukas Engel in the area, before slotting past an exposed Glover.

Less than 60 seconds later, and the visitors were celebrating again as Hayden Hackney conceded possession with a dreadful pass deep inside his own half. James seized on the loose ball, and after advancing into the left-hand side of the 18-yard box, the visiting skipper fired home via the inside of the post.

Boro’s players were shell-shocked, and their fate almost became worse when Knight spotted Glover off his line and almost chipped the goalkeeper from close to the halfway line.

The home side needed a foothold back into the game, but while Hackney fizzed a long-range shot just wide of the right-hand post, City went close again themselves when Knight seized on a loose ball and drilled a shot straight at Glover.

The visitors passed up a great opportunity for a third goal shortly before the interval, with Sam Bell shooting straight at Glover after Cornick’s brilliant through ball sent him scampering clear of a flat-footed Boro defence.

Max O’Leary was finally called into action at the other end towards the end of the first half, palming away a shot from Azaz after Marcus Forss cut the ball back from close to the byline, and given that his side was trailing by two goals, it was a surprise that Carrick opted against making changes at the break.

Fielding Greenwood as the central striker has not really worked in the last two games, and while the Leeds United loanee tested O’Leary with a shot that was saved in the early stages of the second half, it is surely time that Forss is given a run through the middle if Josh Coburn and Emmanuel Latte Lath remain unavailable.

Greenwood’s unsuitability for the central-attacking role was further highlighted just before the hour mark when he was sent clear by a pass from Azaz, only to shoot at the body of the onrushing O’Leary.

In fairness to the Boro forward, he did put the ball in the net with 12 minutes remaining, but was adjudged to have been offside as he raced onto substitute Riley McGree’s through ball. It looked an extremely close call.

The Teessiders’ consolation goal came in the first minute of stoppage time, and was fortuitous in the extreme. Azaz’s shot from inside the area was wayward, but the ball hit substitute Silvera in the back and deflected past a helpless O’Leary.