Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Boro Hopes Are Blasted

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Boro Hopes Are Blasted

Article excerpt

Byline: Eric Paylor

Oh those missed chances. This was a golden opportunity spurned. Boro controlled the first half but could not turn their advantage into goals. They then survived a Hammers' backlash and were back in it before being hit by a late sucker punch.

MARLON HAREWOOD'S powerful late winner dealt Boro's double hopes an almighty hammer blow in a tense FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park.

The goal ended Boro's ambitions of making only a second ever FA Cup Final appearance and now places unwanted pressure on their stiff task of pulling back the one-goal deficit against Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Cup.

Boro's players gave everything and were mentally and physically shattered at the end of yesterday's gruelling clash.

Now they have a long way to climb before Thursday in order to restore belief in the dressing room.

On the day, Boro were not good enough to reach the FA Cup Final despite a bright opening half in which they enjoyed 65pc of the possession.

Golden chances were missed though, after Boro had weathered a second half storm, the game was threatening to bring extra time when Harewood struck out of the blue to blast Boro's hopes into oblivion.

The semi-final was always open, giving both sets of attackers an opportunity to play in space, and so Boro have only themselves to blame for their lack of bite.

McClaren had sprung two surprises before the kick-off. First he revealed that skipper Gareth Southgate was fit after all and would play, and also that Boro would utilise a wing backs formation.

West Ham were flummoxed by Stewart Downing's free role in midfield and the Middlesbrough-born player was the dominant factor in Boro's first half control.

West Ham would have expected him to run at them down the left flank, but in fact he cut them to pieces through the middle.

Boro might have grabbed an early lead when a superb Downing cross found Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at the far post, but the striker's header was booted clear by James Collins. …

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