MICHAEL CARRICK admitted his Middlesbrough side paid the price for their sloppy start as they lost 2-1 to Bristol City - but says he is not trying to change his team's attacking play despite the lack of a natural centre-forward.

Boro conceded two goals in the space of two minutes in the opening quarter of the game at the Riverside, with a succession of errors enabling Bristol City to claim a two-goal lead.

The Teessiders’ defence parted alarmingly as Jason Knight opened the scoring, with the forward turning inside Lukas Engel before slotting home, before Hayden Hackney’s misplaced pass enabled Matty James to double Bristol City’s lead moments later.


Boro were the dominant side for most of the second half, but while they spent most of the closing stages camped in the opposition’s defensive third, they ultimately left themselves with too much to do despite a fortuitous stoppage-time goal as Sammy Silvera deflected home Finn Azaz’s strike.

“We didn’t start particularly well, and in the end, that cost us,” said Carrick. “We didn’t quite look like us really, and paid the price with two quick goals. That obviously gives them a massive start in the game, but I thought the boys showed a lot of character after that.

“It’s not easy in those circumstances, but I thought the boys showed a lot of character to play the way they did. They ended up playing some good football, and looked dangerous at times. They created opportunities, but it just didn’t go for us. In the end, it was too much.

“I thought we finished the first half with good signs, creating a couple of opportunities. I just thought the boys started looking like themselves and carried that on to the second half.

“We had an opportunity or two early in the second half as well, and that can change the game completely. When you are chasing the game, you’re relying on those ones to go in to give you the impetus to chase it a little bit more.

“To sum it up really, we didn’t start well enough and paid the price, then couldn’t quite pull it back.”

Boro are having to play without a natural centre-forward in the absence of Josh Coburn and Emmanuel Latte Lath, but despite having to field Sam Greenwood as a number nine, Carrick claims he has not tried to change the way his side attacks.

“We’re not playing any different to when Manu and Josh were fit, to be honest,” he said. “It’s just different personnel, playing in different positions, but our general game is the same.

“It was the same when Manu and Josh were fit – we played the same today as we did against West Brom (in December), game plan and tactically wise. It doesn’t change.

“Hopefully, Manu will be back in and around it pretty soon, and it’ll be good to have him back. Sam was a threat again. He had a chance with his one-on-one and put the ball in the net when he was given offside, so we could be sitting here with things very different.

“I thought we looked a threat, Marcus (Forss) was getting in down the sides, and with Lewis (O’Brien) and Riley (McGree) getting forward too, it looked like we could create something. We just didn’t end up finishing it off.”