DEFENDER Andrew Taylor made a stunning return to football with Middlesbrough in Saturday’s sensational win at Ashton Gate.
And while former Bristol City striker Leroy Lita stole the show by scoring two goals and making another on a memorable return to his former club, Taylor more than played his part.
The victory extended Boro’s unbeaten league run to four matches and moved them four points clear of the bottom three, now only two points behind the Robins.
Taylor had played only one game for Boro this campaign before being sent out on a half-season loan by former manager Gordon Strachan to Watford.
The 24-year-old’s form helped the Hornets into the promotion mix but he returned to Boro earlier this month when no deal was reached between the two clubs for him to stay at Vicarage Road.
Boro boss Tony Mowbray put Taylor into his starting XI at Ashton Gate after impressing the Boro boss in training last week.
The former England under-21 full-back was played on the left side of midfield and enjoyed a very effective game.
“I wasn’t expecting to be back at Middlesbrough if I’m being honest,” Taylor said. “But I came back, the gaffer gave me a start at Bristol and I enjoyed it.
“It’s no secret that I didn’t get on with Gordon. But the gaffer is here now and Veno (Mark Venus) and Proc (Mark Proctor) are involved.
“I’ve been at Middlesbrough all the way through my career since I was a youngster and the club is in my heart.”
Boro made an enterprising start and Gary O’Neil let fly with an effort from the edge of the area, but David James made a good save.
The game descended into a war of attrition as the half went on, with neither side able to fashion a goalscoring chance.
Boro suffered a blow with half-time approaching when Justin Hoyte was forced off injured, but the visitors took the lead two minutes before the break.
Lita got away down the left and drilled in a low cross which Robins midfielder Kalifa Cisse could only direct into his own net.
Despite suffering that blow at the end of the first half, City started the second half well, with Marvin Elliott bringing a decent save out of Jason Steele.
However, just as it looked as if the hosts might get back in the game, City found themselves 2-0 down with 58 minutes gone.
Tony McMahon whipped in a deep cross which the City defence failed to deal with and Lita headed in at the far post.
Middlesbrough could have been further in front three minutes later, but Barry Robson headed wide from close range when perhaps he should have done better.
However, with 13 minutes remaining Robson made amends with a superb individual goal to put the game to bed.
The Scottish international midfielder skipped past a couple of challenges before sending a precise chip past James.
That sparked a mass exodus of City fans from Ashton Gate and it got worse for those left in the ground in the final minute when James saw red for bringing down bright Boro sub Cameron Park.
With all their substitutes used, defender Liam Fontaine went in goal for the penalty which Lita took charge of – despite competition for the job from Robson and the eager Park.
But Lita slotted away with aplomb past the stand-in goalkeeper to put the icing on Boro’s third – and best – away win of the season.
Bristol City: James, Skuse, Caulker, Cisse (Fontaine 65), Nyatanga, Adomah, Johnson, Elliott, Campbell-Ryce (Clarkson 79), Pitman, Stead (Sproule 65). Subs Not Used: Gerken, Stewart, Carey, Haynes.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte (McMahon 38), Wheater, Bates, Bennett, Robson, Bailey, O’Neil (Park 83), Taylor, Lita, Boyd (Emnes 62). Subs Not Used: Coyne, Kink, Arca, Hines. Booked: O’Neil.
Att: 13,699 Ref: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).