Football: Boro's misery deepens

No pace, no points and no plusses for Gascoigne. Fortunately, there is no Keegan either; Sheffield Wednesday 3 Middlesbrough 1 Booth 11, 80 Mustoe 78 Sonner 77 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 24,534

IT WAS beneath the seven hills of Rome that Paul Gascoigne last showed himself to be a player of effective, if no longer inspirational, international class. In the shadow of Sheffield's seven hills yesterday he looked a player of barely club class. Fifteen months on from his display in the Stadio Olimpico, the faded star of English football failed to shine in this meeting of top-flight low-lights at Hillsborough. Gascoigne spent 45 minutes as a huffing, puffing midfield passenger before being ushered into a sideline seat to watch the second-half completion of Middlesbrough's latest reverse.

Bryan Robson's free-falling team have not won since they left Old Trafford with their sights on Europe the Saturday before Christmas. Bernie Slaven, Boro old boy turned local pundit, chose to celebrate that famous 3-2 victory by baring his behind in the window of Binns department store. But it is Middlesbrough's shortcomings that have been publicly exposed in recent weeks. Two goals by Andy Booth and one by Danny Sonner consigned them to their 10th match without a win. Their slide towards the Premiership's nether region is gathering rapid momentum.

The same cannot be said of the Gazza for England bandwagon. Officially, the portly midfielder was withdrawn at half-time because of a sore knee. But the fact that he had been shown his 12th yellow card of the season, for a post-dated challenge as Sonner passed him by, also influenced Robson's decision. Not for the first time, and with an FA disciplinary hearing to face, Gascoigne looked like a red card waiting to happen as half-time approached. "I didn't want to risk him getting sent-off," Robson confessed.

That Gascoigne was a red-faced and flagging figure, though, must have been a factor too. Kevin Keegan may have the Geordie enigma "in mind" as he ponders his squad for the European Championship qualifier against Poland next month but it was just as well for Gascoigne that he was out of sight of England's part-time caretaker manager yesterday. Keegan was far from the Hillsborough crowd, in the visitors' dug-out at Bootham Crescent in his full-time capacity as Fulham's chief operating officer, but his second-hand reports will tell him what regular Middlesbrough-watchers already know: that, at 31, Gascoigne has lost what speed he once possessed.

He was badly off the pace even before the frustrated lunge at Sonner that drew his 10th minute caution. He was caught in possession by Sonner and brushed aside with nonchalant ease by Petter Rudi as Wednesday ran the midfield show. He managed just the one creative contribution: an inswinging right-wing corner from which Colin Cooper headed narrowly over.

Middlesbrough were better without Gascoigne, with the markedly more mobile presence of Neil Maddison in central midfield. But they lacked the attacking clout to make their fight-back pay after allowing Wednesday to assume total control in the opening quarter. Both Booth and Benito Carbone went close as spectators were still taking their seats and Boro bowed to the Wednesday pressure with 11 minutes on the clock. Booth beat Mark Schwarzer with a low finish after Andy Hinchcliffe found him unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box.

Middlesbrough were in a mess at that stage, ponderous at the back, plodding in midfield and barely perceptible up front. Wednesday took their foot off the pedal, though, inviting Boro forward and into the game as half- time approached. Kevin Pressman had to make a fine reflex save to keep out a downward header by Mikkel Beck, who proceeded to miss one of the sitters of the season after the dithering of Des Walker and Peter Atherton left him with a clear shot at the home goal. Gary Pallister also headed an Andy Townsend free-kick off Pressman's crossbar but the chances dried up for Middlesbrough after the break.

They did find the back of the Wednesday net, Robbie Mustoe bundling the ball past Pressman in the 77th minute - only the second Middlesbrough goal in seven matches. Unfortunately for Boro, though, their breakthrough was sandwiched between the concession of two headed goals. A minute earlier Sonner had risen to convert a Wim Jonk cross and two minutes later Hinchcliffe teed up Booth for the clincher.

"We've got two games at home now," Robson said, "and we've got to turn our season round in them." The Middlesbrough manager has not had the best of times away from home of late.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map