Middlesbrough fans chant 'Pulis out', Rajiv van La Parra situation explained plus Stewart Downing's influence: Six talking points after Bristol City defeat

Middlesbrough's fading promotion hopes were dealt a major blow on Tuesday night following a 1-0 defeat by Bristol City at the Riverside.

Wednesday, 3rd April 2019, 10:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd April 2019, 14:29 pm
Fans turned on Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis after Tuesday'd defeat against Bristol City.

The result marked a fifth straight loss for Tony Pulis' side, who are now two points off the play-offs with seven Championship games to go.

Defender Adam Webster scored the only goal of the game in the 31st minute, after heading home Jay Dasilva's in-swinging corner.

Boro were booed off the field after the match, while loud chants of 'we want Pulis out' followed the full-time whistle.

Here are some of the main talking points from the game:

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Stewart Downing shows his quality

Downing hadn't started for Boro since December 29, due to a bizarre clause in his contract which would have triggered a one-year extension if he played one more game from the off.

That has now been resolved, and the 34-year-old returned to the starting XI to face the Robbins.

Downing's quality was clear to see, with the former England international whipping in a couple of inviting crosses early on.

But, in a less familiar wing-back position, Downing faded after the break, with City doubling up on the winger to stop the threat.

Fans call for Pulis' head

There has been some unrest at Boro for a while, with fans unhappy about Pulis' tactics and the club's recruitment policy.

Yet the fans' frustration bubbled over on Tuesday night and the calls for Pulis to leave at the full-time whistle were clear.

Boro have won just one game at the Riverside in 2019 and have now failed to score in their last three league fixtures.

A Pulis out banner was also visible but was quickly confiscated by stewards.

Boro boss keeps faith with a back three

After altering between a back four and a back three earlier in the season, the Boro boss now seems content on playing with the latter.

Despite Downing's return, the Boro winger was deployed as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation, with George Friend moving across to play as a third centre-back.

Later in the game, Jonny Howson was moved to wing-back following the departure of Ryan Shotton, and the number of players playing out of position was noticeable.

As Boro pushed for an equaliser, Downing was withdrawn and Mo Besic occupied a role to the left of midfield.

Aden Flint was even thrown up front in the final few minutes - but to no avail.

Remarkable stat shows Boro's collapse

Following their 2-1 win at Birmingham on January 12, Boro were just four points off the automatic promotion places.

Twelve games later, the Teessiders have slipped 18 points adrift of the top two and have even fallen out of the play-off spots.

Boro's last win came against QPR on February 23 - they've picked up just one point since.

Sideline towels cause second-half scuffle

With tensions running high, a brief melee broke out in the second half, all over the touchline towels.

Boro used the towels throughout the contest to wipe the ball before taking throw-ins, but when City's Jack Hunt wanted to do the same, there were none available.

In truth, it all got a bit petty, but ultimately none of Boro's long throws, taken by Ryan Shotton, resulted in a goal - or even a decent chance.

In fact, Boro often took them short.

Rajiv van La Parra situation explained

Pulis repeatedly expressed his desire to add more pace and power to his squad in January - hence the loan signing of Rajiv van La Parra from Huddersfield.

Yet the 27-year-old winger has barely featured this campaign, playing just 68 minutes for Boro in the Championship.

The Dutchman returned to Huddersfield for treatment on a back issue earlier this week, and Pulis shed more light on the situation after Tuesday's game.

“Raj joined us with back problems which was documented by both clubs," said Pulis.

“Attempts to get Raj to the right levels of fitness proved unsuccessful and a scan at Middlesbrough highlighted the problem and so he's been referred back to Huddersfield Town and we don't think he'll play this season.

“So obviously there was a problem there."