Neil Warnock missed his usual rowdy reception from Ashton Gate fans as his Middlesbrough side ended Bristol City’s unbeaten start to the Sky Bet Championship season.
George Saville’s 73rd-minute strike, a clinical left-footed finish after robbing Taylor Moore on the edge of the box, proved the decider in a game of few clear-cut chances.
Warnock felt it was a deserved victory to build on Saturday’s draw with high-flyers Reading, but admitted seeing the stadium empty was strange at a venue where he always runs the gauntlet of City fans.
“It was strange not to have anyone banging on the coach windows at me as we drove into the ground,” he said with a smile.
“At the end I wanted to go on a lap of honour and give the crowd a wave because it might be my last chance to do that at Ashton Gate. But there was no one there to watch.
“I’ll settle for a really strong performance from my team. We got a bit of luck with the goal, but you need that sometimes and I thought we earned it.
“We have just played two of the top sides in the table and they have managed only a shot or two against us between them.
“If you had offered me four points before the Reading and Bristol games, I would have snapped your hand off.
“I thought our wing-backs were excellent and there was a strong spine to the team, which made us very solid.”
City head coach Dean Holden was unhappy his side were not awarded a late spot-kick when Tyreeq Bakinson went down under a challenge from Paddy McNair.
“It was a stonewall penalty,” he fumed. “But we cannot control the officials. What we can control is our own performance, which was way below the levels we have set.
“We had a bitter pill to swallow when Barnsley equalised in the last minute on Saturday and we have followed that with a below-par display.
“Now we have to respond quickly and do better against Swansea at the weekend.
“Taylor Moore is a young player who will learn from what happened tonight. We certainly don’t want to take risks like that playing out from the back.
“He has apologised to the group in the dressing room. It was one of many poor decisions we made as a team.
“We put ourselves under pressure by giving the ball away too cheaply against a side looking to get men behind the ball.
“We need to be better than that, but it has still been a strong start to the season.”