Jonathan Woodgate felt his Middlesbrough side deserved more than they got from their thrilling 2-2 draw with Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
The hosts took the lead a minute before the break when Niclas Eliasson’s cross from the left was met with a firm downward header from Kasey Palmer but Boro equalised after 64 minutes, Taylor Moore diverting Paddy McNair’s low cross into his own net.
Woodgate’s men then added another four minutes later through Britt Assombalonga’s assured left-footed finish but City hit back nine minutes from time when substitute Callum O’Dowda crossed for the unmarked Tommy Rowe to net with a stooping header.
The match as a whole was an entertaining spectacle, although Woodgate was disappointed Boro only came away with a single point.
He said: “I thought we were the better side and deserved to win. It was a top-class performance and our best of the season so far.
“I haven’t a bad word to say about any of my players. Bristol looked to counter-attack us and did so effectively in the first half, but we tweaked a couple of things at half-time and I thought the lads were outstanding in terms of effort and the way we approached the game.
“Of course, I’m unhappy with conceding from two headers. Defenders seem to want to mark areas rather than opponents these days and space never scored a goal.
“That is a lesson for all young defenders and something we have to work on. But in all other respects I’m delighted. The team are developing and now we have to build on this.
“There were some tremendous performances. Britt Assombalonga’s missus gave birth on Thursday and I wish she would do so every week because he was immense.
“Dael Fry gave a real captain’s display. He has come through all the age group teams at the club and that is the sort of guy I want as a leader.”
City head coach Lee Johnson felt unable to share the enthusiasm of a 20,000 crowd for a game that did credit to both teams.
“I’m disappointed because I felt the game was there for us to win,” he said.
“It was far too open from my point of view. We didn’t get our distances right and that was down to poor communication, with a number of young players in the team.
“With injuries to players like Tomas Kalas, Korey Smith and Adam Nagy, the balance of the team is not quite as I want it.
“We played some fantastic attacking football but gave them too much space to do the same. Their first goal resulted from two of my players going for the same ball.
“The second would have been offside if Taylor Moore had not got a touch to the ball on its way through to Assombalonga. I don’t like that rule.
“But it’s another point for us and we are on a decent run going into an international break that will give us time to get some of the injured players fit.
“We are still a work in progress and overall I’m pleased with the start we have made.”
Both sides hit the woodwork during the contest. Boro’s Ashley Fletcher fired against a post after 13 minutes from McNair’s low cross and nine minutes later City’s Nathan Baker sent a glancing header against an upright from Eliasson’s centre.
It was end-to-end stuff from the opening minutes but both goalkeepers distinguished themselves amid some desperate last-ditch defending.
Even after Rowe’s equaliser Boro went for all three points. Lewis Wing shot inches wide and in stoppage time Dan Bentley did well to smother a shot from Ryan Shotton.
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