Neil Warnock celebrated a “fabulous” afternoon at the Riverside Stadium after his Middlesbrough side overcame Bristol City with a 2-1 Championship victory.
Goals from summer signings Uche Ikpeazu and Matt Crooks, in the 38th and 70th minutes respectively, sealed three points for Boro.
That was the perfect outcome for Warnock – despite City levelling through Andy King’s header on the hour – who had waited more than a year to lead Middlesbrough in front of a big Riverside crowd.
Warnock celebrated at the final whistle with the supporters who regularly chanted his name and the 72-year-old admitted he did not realise how special the atmosphere was going to be.
“I was gobsmacked before kick-off when I came out, it was an amazing sight, that is why I am in the game,” said Warnock, who took over during the pandemic in June last year.
“I have been here I don’t know how many months, and that’s what I have been waiting for. I thought at 1-1 they were brilliant. We had a 10-minute sticky spell. All credit to them for helping us through.
“It was great to score two in your first home match in front of the fans. I went to clap them after the game, they were all over the shop. It was fabulous.
“A big ‘thank you’ to them from us. Everywhere deserved a clap, they contributed all over the ground. (It was) great to see so many young fans inside too.
“And the two new signings getting on the sheet, fabulous. No disrespect to Uche, but we can’t have one striker. Chuba Akpom has gone down with Covid. We had to stick it out. We were dominating for large periods.
“I had to put Crooks there, he won’t score wide. He has so much energy, (I’m) delighted for Crooks. Isaiah Jones could have had four or five.”
Jones laid on the first goal for Ikpeazu, a summer signing from Wycombe, when he was played in down the left and he crossed the ball into the area superbly.
Ikpeazu then nodded down for former Rotherham forward Crooks to score that crucial second from Paddy McNair’s delivery from a free-kick.
There were other chances too, with Jones, 22, a constant menace and showing plenty of signs of promise for the second weekend in a row.
Bristol City boss Nigel Pearson felt that his side had done well to level when King was left unmarked to head in ex-Leicester team-mate Matty James’ free-kick.
But Pearson, a former Middlesbrough captain who led the club to their only FA Cup final in 1997, was unhappy with the performance – even though the Robins had a couple of late chances to claim a point.
“We were careless today,” said Pearson. “We had enough possession, opportunities in the game to get something out of it. We looked pretty comfortable for most of the game.
“Boro are a team who want to put pressure on you through set-plays and we gave needless set-plays away. After fighting to get back into it, we conceded a very sloppy second.
“The first half we were careless, relatively comfortable but our possession wasn’t what I would expect it to be, not of the standard I would expect.
“Neil’s sides are always hard working, committed. I have a lot of respect for them. But the three goals we have conceded in the league have all been in the six-yard box.
“I expect us to be able to deal with situations better than we have so far. Back to work.”
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