Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka said his side secured a much-needed three points against Bolton despite producing “one of the worst performances” of his Riverside reign.
Albert Adomah’s first-half strike ensured Boro got back to winning ways after last weekend’s surprise home defeat to Leeds, and remained within two points of Sky Bet Championship leaders Derby.
However, with Patrick Bamford spurning a succession of chances to extend the Teessiders’ advantage, Karanka was far from happy with his team’s performance.
The Spaniard was ruing his luck after Saturday’s impressive showing against Leeds brought no reward, but while he was grateful for a win to remain in the automatic promotion places, he will be demanding a marked improvement when Boro travel to Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend.
Karanka said: “Four days ago, I was saying we had played one of our best games and lost (against Leeds). Today, we have played one of our worst games since I have been here, but we have won.
“The important thing is that we have won three more points. We will have to analyse the game because I cannot really explain anything now.
“The good thing is the three points, but it’s difficult for me to understand what happened because I didn’t really recognise some of my players.
“We have fixed one part of our mistakes, and that is the defensive errors. But now we have to fix the attacking mistakes as well because it is not possible to finish the games with a win when we have problems like this.
“We have had four or five clear chances to score and not taken them. The defensive mistakes have been fixed, and that is important. But now we also need to improve our attacking.”
Adomah converted the only goal of the game shortly before half-time as he latched on to Lee Tomlin’s through-ball and slotted his shot past Ben Amos.
Bolton were restricted to a handful of half-chances, although Liam Feeney might have done better with a late back-post header he directed wide of the target.
Trotters boss Neil Lennon said: “I felt we definitely deserved something from the game. Boro were the better team in the first half but we were infinitely superior in the second half and had a few chances.
“It was a huge improvement on the weekend (when Bolton lost 4-1 at Nottingham Forest), and gives me a lot of encouragement going forward.
“The reaction from that result was excellent and Emile Heskey made a huge difference. I am disappointed we couldn’t get something out of the game.”
The result leaves Bolton six points clear of the relegation places, and means Lennon’s side have now won just one of their last nine games.