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West Ham 2 Middlesbrough 1: Jones dashes faint hopes of staying up
Published : 24 May 2009 20:12:21Rss feed
Middlesbrough's relegation from the Barclays Premier League was confirmed after Brad Jones' blunder gave them no hope of the win they needed to have a chance of staying up. Gareth Southgate's men needed a big victory and for results to go their way but they failed to do their part, with Junior Stanislas' weakshot sneaking past Jones for the winner at Upton Park. Carlton Cole had given the Hammers a first-half lead but Boro were given encouragement when Gary O'Neil levelled and their relegation rivals were losing. After Stanislas struck there was a resigned attitude to Boro as their fate was sealed. Boro's stint in the top flight lasted 11 years and included a League Cup win and a UEFA Cup final appearance - but now they are heading for tricky away fixtures at the likes of Doncaster, Blackpool and Scunthorpe. Southgate has been undermined by a lack of goals from Brazilian flop Afonso Alves, who missed this clash through injury along with England winger Stewart Downing. Without them, the odds were stacked against Boro winning and getting the five-goal swing they needed to overtake Hull. The focus will now be on whether Southgate will remain as manager and whether players such as David Wheater, Downing and Tuncay Sanliwill have to be sold The loneliest job in the world: Gareth Southgate is helpless as Middlesbrough slide to defeat - and relegation Southgate is considered one of England's brightest managerial prospects but this season has not found the goals or away points required to get out of trouble. This match summed up their problems. Southgate's young players are promising but they lacked the cutting edge needed. Adam Johnson wasted their first opportunity, blazing over when he was given time and room at the far post. Had that gone in, Boro may have been on course for the big win they needed. When the ball broke in the penalty area after Robert Huth challenged Hammers goalkeeper Robert Green it fell to the wrong person, with Wheater hooking it over the crossbar. The Hammers were far more dangerous in front of goal, and Stanislashad struck the crossbar early on from 25 yards after Boro defenders jumped out of tackles. The opener came in the 33rd minute. Luis Boa Morte held the ball up and played Herita Ilunga down the left. The full-back's cross went between Justin Hoyte and Huth, then Colesent the ball back in the direction it came - between the two defendersbut this time into the corner of the net. Favourable scorelines were filtering through but Boro were not putting up a fight. Something had to give so Southgate took off Tony McMahon and Julio Arca at the break, with Josh Walker and Joe Bennett coming on. Boro were level within five minutes of the restart. Tuncay wriggled his way into the area but resisted the temptation to shoot, instead offloading to O'Neil who found the bottom corner with an angled drive. Parity lasted eight minutes thanks to Stanislas. Jack Collison had retrieved a lost situation with his endeavour, then got the ball back and found Stanislas 25 yards out. The youngster was encouraged to shoot from the crowd and by Boro's defenders backing away, with his shot lacking power but squirming past Boro goalkeeper Jones. It was a howler from Jones and he was determined to make up for it when he dived at the feet of substitute Kieron Dyer to prevent a third goal. The Hammers went in search of another, while Boro moved centre-back Wheater up front without reward.