Two Nahki Wells goals, either side of Jamie Paterson rifling home his second strike in as many games, fired City back to within three points of the play-offs in a convincing 3-1 win away to Middlesbrough. Dean Holden’s men oozed confidence at the Riverside Stadium where Wells opened the scoring inside the sixth minute with a beautiful strike away from the keeper.
Boro hit the bar through heroics from Dan Bentley but Paterson scored a rocket from a narrow angle with City in control at half-time. And they added to Middlesbrough’s pain when Wells notched home his fifth goal in City colours, before Britt Assombalonga rolled in a late consolation for the relegation-threatened hosts.
Interim Head Coach Holden named an unchanged side for the trip to Boro, meaning Nathan Baker was fit to start having recovered from a migraine which saw him taken off early on Wednesday night. City also named eight of a possible nine substitutes, with Benik Afobe missing out from the bench due to a stomach upset.
But Holden was looking to build on Wednesday’s win and he saw his team on top in the early moments with their reward coming after just six minutes. Andreas Weimann’s initial touch looked poor but he managed to find Wells whose first-time left-footed shot was struck beyond Dejan Stojanovic and in off the post. It was the perfect placement, helped by his quick glance to spot the keeper edging to his right, and he guided the ball away from the helpless Boro man between the sticks.
Famara Diédhiou, confident after notching his 13th goal for the season in midweek, was next to threaten with a low shot but Stojanovic pushed the ball away at his near post.
The hosts soon upped their game and looked to deploy trouble from the wide areas with Ryan Shotton’s long-throws and deliveries from Marvin Johnson were dealt with by Dan Bentley. City were able to deal with the aerial challenges and Dael Fry went close to equalising but smashed over from close range.
Bentley then produced an expert fingertip save to keep the Robins on top when he turned George Saville’s effort on to the bar, while at the other end, Paterson capitalised on a ricocheted Shotton pass. The midfielder darted forward and found Jack Hunt in acres of space but despite having plenty of time, the right-back opted for a first-time shot and Stojanovic produce a strong-handed save. But there was no error from Paterson as City went on to double their lead before the break. Hunt fed Weimann who picked out Paterson on the left, and City’s number 20 held up the ball before unleashing an unstoppable drive from a tight angle. City were rightly in the driving seat and Boro’s shotstopper had to produce another stop to deny Diédhiou before Wells headed over as City ended the half on top.
Neil Warnock’s men had been reduced to very little and the visitors kept the pressure on in the second half with the confidence in full flow. More chances went begging though when a Paterson free-kick narrowly avoid both Filip Benković and Baker at the far post, while Hunt dragged an effort wide.
Patrick Roberts would have two chances to pull Middlesbrough back into the game but wasted his first and Baker produced a last-ditch tackle on the second.
And they were made to pay as Weimann grabbed his third assist of the day, sliding in a pass for Wells who provided a cool finish to add City’s third goal of the day.
Boro’s consolation came shortly after with the match entering the final ten minutes with Britt Assombalonga’s low shot beating Bentley. Holden soon rang the changes to help his side see out the result: Callum O’Dowda, Marley Watkins, Zak Vyner and Ádám Nagy replaced Wells, Diédhiou, Hunt and Paterson, respectively.