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Bristol City 2 Middlesbrough 0
MIDDLESBROUGH'S stuttering push for a play-off place took a further turn for the worse at Ashton Gate where Bristol City climbed off the foot of the Championship with a comfortable win.
Goals from Albert Adomah and Steven Davies were enough to do the damage to a Boro team which has now taken just seven points from the last 36 available to them.
Middlesbrough are now three points shy of the top six and have slipped down to ninth, although both Leicester City and Brighton both have a game in hand over the Teessiders.
With nine matches remaining manager Tony Mowbray needs to come up with a quick fix if their ailing hopes of a return to the Premier League are to be fulfilled.
But on the evidence of this latest showing there is little chance of that happening.
Adomah put Bristol City ahead in the 33rd minute when he cut inside from the right and chipped a left-foot shot in off the far post. That arrived after three different errors from George Friend, Stephen McManus and Scott McDonald.
At that stage Middlesbrough, starting with three at the back and three in attack, could still have found a route back in to the game.
But Middlesbrough were unable to threaten the Robins' goal and eight minutes after half-time Sean O'Driscoll's side added a second.
This time Neil Kilkenny's quickly taken free-kick to Stephen Pearson was not tracked. Pearson fed top-scorer Davies, who still had a lot to do, but he had the space to pick out Jason Steele's bottom left corner.
From there on in it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Middlesbrough and they had little invention in the final third to make a fight of things.
BRISTOL CITY (4-4-2): Heaton; Moloney, Nyatanga, Fontaine, Cunningham; Kelly, Kilkenny, Elliott, Pearson; Stead (Adomah 18 (Howard 89)), Davies (Baldock 80). Subs: Gerken (gk), Wilson, Anderson, Bates. MIDDLESBROUGH (3-4-3): Steele; Woodgate, Williams, McManus; Dyer, Bailey (Ledesma 75), Smallwood, Friend (Halliday 46); Carayol, Emnes (Main 53), McDonald. Subs: Leutwiler (gk), Hines, Reach, Miller.