Boro fear bankruptcy after losing streak

West Ham United 2 Middlesbrough 0
Click to follow
Like a gambler locked into a losing streak, Middlesbrough must be hoping they have enough in the bank to see them through while they await the days of plenty that are, of course, just around the corner.

Their funds stand at 34 points and they will probably need only 39 or 40 to avoid Premiership bankruptcy. Only five or six more points required. Only.

They have picked up only one point from their last 11 games, but then, just like the plucky, so unlucky, punter, they firmly believe the next one will turn things round. Their manager, Bryan Robson, is ever the optimist.

"The overall performance, I felt, was quite good," he said, "especially in the second half when we dominated the first 20 minutes, and you just feel we needed to score a goal to go on from there."

In an attempt to help his side "to go on from there", and capitalise on what, incidentally, was by far West Ham's worst spell in a scrappy match, he invested heavily in one of his favourites, Juninho, who is just back from helping Brazil to the Olympics. It was a gamble, and when your luck is out, something will always go wrong.

Middlesbrough had handicapped themselves at the very start when goalkeeper Gary Walsh opted to juggle Neil Cox's back-pass from right to left foot, got in a tangle under pressure from Tony Cottee and merely set up Iain Dowie for a simple tap-in. Now, with Juninho's boots still spotless, Mike Reed chose to increase the burden they had to carry by deciding the hapless Cox's inadvertent handball, when the ball reared up off a divot and struck his arm, was worth a penalty. Lightning, like Julian Dicks missing from the spot as he did against Arsenal, does not often strike twice.

Bad luck? Possibly, but then had Cottee not ruined at least three promising breaks with poor passes or even worse judgement, West Ham, without playing well, would have been clear by a distance at that stage. He eventually gave in to a calf strain, allowing Ilie Dumitrescu to make a quiet start to life as a Hammer.

Never mind. Robson has another good bet up his sleeve. Juninho and Branco will soon be fully fit, along with the likes of Vickers, Pollock and Stamp.

The trouble is, having players in hand, like games in hand, can sometimes prove to be of no benefit. His best bet might be one of the more fancied runners coming through to join Bolton and Queen's Park Rangers at the front of the relegation race.

Goals: Dowie (2) 1-0; Dicks pen (62) 2-0.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Bilic, Dicks; Williamson, Bishop, Hughes, Rowland; Cottee (Dumitrescu, 57), Dowie. Substitutes not used: Dani, Sealey (gk).

Middlesbrough (5-3-2): Walsh; Morris (Branco, 69), Cox, Pearson, Whyte, Fleming; Mustoe, Kavanagh, Hignett (Juninho, 60); Fjortoft (Hendrie, 60), Barmby.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Bookings: West Ham: Bishop, Williamson. Middlesbrough: Fleming.

Man of the match: Bishop.

Attendance: 23,850.