Ex-Sunderland midfielder Grant Leadbitter urges Boro to stick together after fifth game in a row without a win

Britt Assombalonga heads off the line to deny Cardiff's Sol Bamba.
Britt Assombalonga heads off the line to deny Cardiff's Sol Bamba.

Midfielder Grant Leadbitter was left gutted by Cardiff City’s late smash-and-grab Championship victory over Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Joe Ralls converted an 84th-minute penalty, following a needless, mistimed foul by Adama Traore, to extend Boro’s run without a win to five, increasing the pressure on boss Garry Monk.

“If I’m being honest, I don’t think we deserved that at the end,” said former Sunderland man Leadbitter told mfc.co.uk on Saturday.

“In other games we haven’t deserved to win, but I thought we did today.

“But that’s football. We’re a new group and we’re going through a tricky period. It’s not a time for pointing fingers or playing the blame game, it’s a time for sticking together, including the fans.

“I’ve been here at this club before when we’ve come through tough times. It’s a great set of fans, there’s a long way to go this season and we keep believing.”

Cardiff were the dominant side for the majority of the game, with their victory enabling them to draw a line under a brief wobble.

Boro boss Monk felt his men were unfortunate to lose, but accepts they are in the middle of a difficult spell.

The Teessiders have failed to win any of their last five matches, and find themselves in the bottom half of the table despite having started the season as the favourites for promotion.

Boos rang around the Riverside at the final whistle, but Monk was keen to accentuate the positives even though Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was only forced to make one save.

Monk said: “It’s clearly a frustrating period for us. We knew going into the game it wasn’t going to be one with a lot of chances because of the way Cardiff set up, so we knew we were going to have to show patience.

“We were in the ascendency and if anyone was going to win, it looked like us, so it was a really harsh result. But that’s the period we’re in.

“We understand the fans’ frustration, but what’s very clear is that we stick together. It’s easy to lose focus on what the players have done really well, even today there were a lot of good things.

“We’re getting punished for errors, but we know the good things we’re doing will get us through. There was a lot of positives in how we controlled the game and forced them back and they settled into that defensive mode.

“We’re very close to getting to that situation where those things go for us. When we do get through this period, you’ll see a lot of positives.”

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Da Silva, Downing (Traore 78), Howson, Leadbitter, Braithwaite, Assombalonga, Fletcher (Bamford 67). Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Friend, Clayton, Fry, Johnson. Booked: Gibson, Leadbitter.

Cardiff: Etheridge, Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Peltier, Bryson, Ralls, Bennett, Mendez-Laing (Paterson 89), Ward (Bogle 90), Hoilett. Subs not used: Tomlin, Feeney, Halford, Damour, Murphy. Booked: Bennett, Bamba. Goal: Ralls 84 pen.

Att: 24,806

Ref: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire).