Nigel Pearson’s Bristol City reign does not really start until tomorrow morning – but the new Robins boss could not have wished for a more immediate impact as his presence at the Riverside stadium helped inspire his new side to a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough.
City ended a seven-game losing run as they tore the promotion-hunting Teessiders apart, with all three of their goals coming in a 16-minute period in the first half.
Famara Diedhiou scored the first two, heading home Adam Nagy’s cross and firing home a shot from just inside the area, and then set up the third as he flicked on to send Nakhi Wells racing clear of the Boro backline.
Dael Fry pulled a goal back for Middlesbrough with 10 minutes left but this was Bristol City’s night as caretaker managers Paul Simpson and Keith Downing signed off in style. Pearson, watching on from the directors’ box at the Riverside, will feel he has plenty to build from.
Middlesbrough went into the game buoyed by back-to-back wins over Huddersfield and Reading, but while they created a couple of early opportunities, they found themselves three goals down at the break.
Bristol City’s main threat came on the counter-attack, and the Robins came close to claiming the lead in the opening quarter-hour when Diedhiou released Wells into the right of the area. Wells slipped a low shot past Middlesbrough goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli but a covering Paddy McNair hacked clear from just in front of the goal-line.
Diedhiou went close himself moments later, firing in a shot that Bettinelli clawed around the right-hand post, and the Bristol City striker was the key man again as the deadlock was broken in the 21st minute.
Nagy stood up a cross from the right corner of the penalty area and Diedhiou eased himself between Fry and Anfernee Dijksteel to head home his ninth goal of the season from the edge of the six-yard box.
His 10th goal of the campaign came just 12 minutes later, with Bristol City profiting from some uncharacteristic sloppiness from Boro’s Jonny Howson.
The midfielder conceded possession close to the halfway line and after Tyreeq Bakinson combined with Wells to tee up Diedhiou on the right of the box, the unmarked Robins striker had the simple task of sweeping home his second goal of the evening.
Diedhiou and Wells’ link-up play was too much for Middlesbrough to handle all night and the pair combined effectively again as the visitors added a third goal eight minutes before the break.
Diedhiou’s flick-on from close to the halfway line sent Wells galloping clear and after outpacing Howson, the Bermudan striker slotted a simple finish past Bettinelli.
Boro’s miserable first half was compounded by the loss of Ashley Fletcher to an injury and while the Teessiders dominated possession in the second period, they never really looked like hauling themselves back into the game.
Duncan Watmore curled a shot wide from the left side of the area but while the home side pulled a goal back with 10 minutes left, with Fry stabbing home from close range after Marvin Johnson crossed from the right, it was too little, too late.