Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Southgate Settles for a Scrappy Win

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Southgate Settles for a Scrappy Win

Article excerpt

Middlesbrough 1

Derby County 0

IT was "instantly forgettable" and "cold, wet and horrible", but Gareth Southgate knows how valuable Middlesbrough's scrappy 1-0 victory over Derby County should prove to be.

The result extends Boro's advantage over third bottom Bolton to eight points and should guarantee Premier League football on Teesside for an 11th successive season.

As Southgate was quick to admit, his Boro team made hard work of finishing off a doomed Derby side that has yet to win away in the league this season.That the Rams have a minus 51 goal difference shows just how comfortable the hosts' afternoon should have been.

But as Southgate admits, his side struggles to kill teams off when they've got them on the rack. Boro have scored an average of one league goal per game at the Riverside this season, which outlines how blunt their attack has been.

Crucially, three of those 15 goals came in victories over relegation rivals Wigan, Fulham and Derby. But the latter of those results had some fortune.

Robert Earnshaw spurned an opportunity to equalise as Derby staged a fightback, heading an Andy Todd cross wide. Had Boro drawn, the home fans' patience would have been stretched to breaking point after watching Reading and then Cardiff return home with victories in the previous two dire Riverside fixtures. Draws at Aston Villa and Arsenal would have been forgotten.

"Today was all about winning," said Southgate. "We staggered over the line in the end. I didn't take huge pleasure out of this afternoon because it was cold, wet and horrible but these could be crucial points."

The conditions were hardly conducive with blinding snow swirling around the Riverside. Southgate admitted the conditions were unusual.

"It probably wasn't best to put an Egyptian on in the middle of a snowstorm," he said, referring to the introduction of Mohamed Shawky in the 65th minute. …

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