Middlesbrough 0 Bristol City 1: Karanka defends his rotation policy

Graphic by Graeme Bandeira.

Graphic by Graeme Bandeira.

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Steve Cotterill revelled in Bristol City’s first maximum-points haul since their return to the Sky Bet Championship following the 1-0 win at Middlesbrough.

Joe Bryan grabbed the only goal as City, who had collected just one point from their previous three contests, claimed the spoils at the Riverside.

Their efforts delighted boss Cotterill, who felt the win was overdue following some impressive, if unrewarded, performances.

“I am delighted,” he said. “We have played really well and not got the wins. We could have been 3-0 up at half-time.

“They are a really good team full of good players so we had to really defend well.

“Hopefully that will give us the confidence we need. If Middlesbrough don’t get automatic promotion, they will certainly be in the top six.

“This result will surprise some people in the Championship. The only people that won’t be surprised is Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford and Leeds (the previous three sides City have played) because we’re not bad.”

The contingent of City fans making the long trip home will have left the ground lauding goalkeeper Ben Hamer, who made two stunning second-half saves to ensure victory.

“He made a couple of really good saves,” added Cotterill. “He needed that because he hasn’t played too well.

“We’re pleased that he has got his clean sheet. We’ll have Frank Fielding back in the next couple of weeks, so we’ll have two good goalkeepers.”

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka defended his rotation policy following the defeat, with many bemused by the absences of Ben Gibson, Albert Adomah, Kike and Diego Fabbrini from the starting line-up.

He said: “I always have to choose the best XI for the game and today I decided to make some changes to that and it didn’t work.

“When I pick the team, I always have reasons for doing things. For example, Fabbrini didn’t play pre-season with us and has a lot.

“Gibbo played on Tuesday but he hasn’t had pre-season. Kike played three games in a row and (David) Nugent was fresh, which I thought would have been good for us.

“The same with Adomah; I felt he looked tired on Tuesday and for that reason, I thought he needed a rest.”

Karanka added: “It’s difficult for me to understand the performance. I don’t know what happened; we didn’t play how we usually do.

“We had very good players on the pitch and it’s difficult to understand. I have to analyse what happened.”

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