Joe Nicholson's verdict: Middlesbrough's draw at Bristol City felt a lot like Luton

Middlesbrough's Adam Clayton challenges for the ball against Bristol City.Middlesbrough's Adam Clayton challenges for the ball against Bristol City.
Middlesbrough's Adam Clayton challenges for the ball against Bristol City. | 2019 Getty Images
Jonathan Woodgate compared it to a basketball match, Lee Johnson thought the game was too open. Either way, it made for an entertaining spectacle and great advert for the Championship.

In a lot of ways Middlesbrough’s 2-2 draw at Bristol City felt like the 3-3 blockbuster at Luton on the opening day of the season.

The Teessiders fell behind, recovered to take a second-half lead and were just minutes away from recording their first away victory under Woodgate.

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Yet following the trip to Kenilworth Road, and an impressive 45 minutes against Brentford, Boro’s performances had gone a little stale in recent weeks.

At Ashton Gate, though, it was end-to-end stuff, full of attacking prowess and quick transitions, from one penalty area to the other.

Despite admitting his side should have defended better for City’s two goals, Woodgate believed it was his side’s best performance over 90 minutes this season. It was hard to disagree.

So what changed following that cagey run of games against Blackburn, Wigan and Millwall?

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The obvious alternate was the identity of the opposition. The aforementioned teams were all content to take the direct approach – a tactic which helped bypass Boro’s midfield and prevented the Teessiders from pressing high up the pitch.

City, though, were keen to get their creative, skilful players, Kasey Palmer and Niclas Eliasson, into the game, and the pair were particularly prominent in the first half, cutting in from wide areas in a 4-2-2-2 formation.

Yet Boro were also good value going forward. Paddy McNair put in another impressive display and took advantage of the extra space in midfield.

There was also more room for Britt Assombalonga to manoeuvre and the frontman produced some good link-up play with flankers Ashley Fletcher and Marvin Johnson.

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Right-back Anfernee Dijksteel looked better going forward, while Marc Bola recovered after a difficult first half against the influential Eliasson.

Of course these types of games are going to leave Boro vulnerable at the back, yet City’s goals, both from headers, were easily avoidable.

Woodgate will continue to look for the right balance, yet there were plenty of positives to take from the South West.