BORO captain Matthew Bates admitted pride was severely dented by Saturday’s heavy defeat at Southampton.
Guly Do Prado bagged a brace to help the Championship leaders maintain their 100 per cent home record with a magnificent performance.
The Saints were indebted to errors from Boro’s backline for their first two goals, but they were worthy of all three points after dominating from start to finish. And that was hard to take for Bates.
“It was a very painful afternoon. I was rested for the Forest game (when Middlesbrough lost 2-0) so I don’t really know how that felt afterwards, but it’s been a while since I felt like that after a match.
“It’s come as a bit of a shock to the system. We’ve worked very hard to keep clean sheets but this just wasn’t our day. The pride has taken a bit of a dent.”
Boro could have moved level on points with the league leaders with a win but it was the hosts who made a lively start, and a drive from Jose Fonte was deflected over the bar.
They continued to dominate proceedings and it came as no surprise when Guly gave them the lead after 15 minutes with a powerful header from Butterfield’s right-wing cross.
The visitors had only conceded three goals in six previous away matches, but they only had themselves to blame after allowing Guly a free header.
More poor defending allowed the midfielder to double his and Southampton’s tally in the 29th minute.
Adam Lallana’s left-wing cross to the back post found Lambert in acres of space and the striker’s header back across goal gave Guly a simple tap-in.
It was all one-way traffic and Lambert nearly got in on the act but he narrowly headed wide from Butterfield’s centre, while Guly was denied a first-half hat-trick when his shot came back off the post.
Despite being firmly on the back foot, Scott McDonald had a golden opportunity to halve the deficit just before the interval but, after he had rounded Saints goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, the striker could only find the side netting.
That failed to inspire Mowbray’s men as Southampton continued to control the tempo in the second half and Jack Cork’s 25-yard effort forced a fine save from Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele.
Connolly, who had replaced Guly in the 55th minute, made sure of the victory 10 minutes from time when he fired into the top corner following Lambert’s lay-off.
Lambert himself nearly added gloss to the victory but his fiery volley was well saved by Steele.
Southampton: Davis, Butterfield, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, Chaplow, Hammond (De Ridder 82), Cork, Lallana (Schneiderlin 73), Do Prado (Connolly 55), Lambert. Subs Not Used: Bialkowski, Martin.
Middlesbrough: Steele, McMahon (Zemmama 73), Rhys Williams, Bates, Hoyte, Robson, Bailey, Arca (Haroun 63), Bennett, Emnes, McDonald (Nimely 63). Subs Not Used: McManus, Ogbeche. Booked: Robson. Att: 26, 630 Ref: Roger East (Wiltshire).