A difficult week for Gareth Southgate ended with a first league defeat of the season at Ashton Gate yesterday afternoon. Bristol City striker Nicky Maynard struck his second of the game in injury time to secure a 2-1 win for Gary Johnson's side.
Robert Huth had captained the side and marshalled the defence impressively in the opening weeks of the season. With Huth and Tuncay departed to sit on the bench at the Britannia Stadium, a defensive reshuffle was necessary. Jonathan Grounds shifted to the centre of defence alongside new skipper David Wheater with Andrew Taylor remaining at left back. There were also recalls for Tony McMahon and Leroy Lita after Tuesday's Carling Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest.
After a goalless first half, it was the home side who took the lead after the break, Maynard taking advantage of Grounds' slip to curl past Danny Coyne. Boro were drifting towards defeat until Louis Carey handled Jeremie Aliaidere's cross with ten minutes remaining. Adam Johnson slotted the penalty home for his fifth of the season.
As on Tuesday night, Aliadiere then spurned a glorious chance to win the game, blazing over the bar from inside the area. As on Tuesday night, Boro were punished for it. With the ninety minutes up, Maynard secured a late, late win for the Robins with another composed finish.
Southgate doesn't have any time to start feeling sorry for himself. Two defeats in five days have shown the squad isn't as strong as the opening four games suggested. With just over two days to go until the transfer window shuts, Boro have still to find a buyer for Afonso Alves, the last of the real high earners.
The squad is also desperately thin across midfield and attack. If Southgate can't do any better than Danny Webber, Boro are unlikely to be able to keep up with the Championship pacesetters.