Why Middlesbrough's calm refusal not to panic at Bristol City could be a key moment in Michael Carrick era

THERE have been several stellar episodes during Michael Carrick's eventful tenure in charge of Middlesbrough thus far.

Riverside highs and goal-fests against the likes of Preston North End and Reading have ranked alongside dramatic come-from-behind away victories at next opponents Norwich City, Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers.

Monday's recovery at Bristol City, when the odds on Boro suffering a third successive defeat looked increasingly short early in the second half at Ashton Gate, might just prove as significant as anything yet.

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Even accounting for the fact that Carrick's side did not win, but drew.

Michael Carrick applauds the Middlesbrough fans at full time after the win at Hull City in November. Picture: Bruce RollinsonMichael Carrick applauds the Middlesbrough fans at full time after the win at Hull City in November. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Michael Carrick applauds the Middlesbrough fans at full time after the win at Hull City in November. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Boro - who started to fall away from promotion contention 12 months ago towards the end of 2021-22 - passed a character test and did not panic despite trailing 2-0.

Their response was strong, controlled and they stayed true to themselves. It reflected well upon Carrick.

The Boro head coach, preparing for Friday's key home encounter against a chasing side just outside of the play-offs in Norwich, said: "It was really pleasing to see - that we didn't lose our heads.

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"We stuck to what the boys are good at and what's been working for a period of time. It's very easy for that emotion to kick in where you almost become a little bit desperate and start chasing things. It doesn't necessarily make you a better team or give you a better chance.

"I was really pleased how the boys stayed stable, emotionally controlled it, kept believing and nearly pulled it off in terms of getting the win."

On the subject of panic, Carrick is equally not about to succumb to that feeling regarding Boro's recent defensive performances, which have seen them ship eight goals in three matches since the resumption of Championship business after the international break.

Much has been made of the recent absence of Dael Fry, who has not been involved on the pitch in those games with the central defender having had separate issues with his Achilles and ankle.

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The club are continuing to assess Fry ahead of Friday's game.

Commenting on his side's rearguard displays of late, Carrick continued: "I would not say (I am) concerned. Listen, we have done (let in goals) and I am not hiding from it at all.

"I think the boys understand what we have to do in terms of defending as a team, which we have done very well for a period of time.

"It's individual things and sometimes it's a bit of a unit of three and four or a team thing (at times).

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"It's not so much concern, but more of a case of what can we do better to improve and avoid it and given ourselves a better chance of winning games."

On Fry, pictured, he said: “We're hopeful, but I'm not sure he'll be fit or not, we'll have to wait and see.

"He's had a couple (of niggles). He got a bang on his ankle last minute against Preston that set him back in the international week. Then he had a bit of a problem with his Achilles, so it's not been one problem.

"He's been unfortunate over the last few weeks with two or three different things that have held him back.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​