AFTER a stable-load of false starts, Chelsea won at a canter. A first half that was a fine advertisement for a Saturday afternoon of shopping on the King's Road was quickly forgotten as Dave Webb's revitalised Blues attacked the Shed end with unremitting vigour to make Boro's chances of remaining in the Premier League as likely as finding a happy bookie at Aintree yesterday.
Lennie Lawrence, an experienced escapologist during his Charlton days, has his work cut out this time, particularly with Oldham winning so emphatically to leave Boro two points adrift at the bottom. They started promisingly, John Hendrie forcing the excellent Dave Beasant into an athletic tip-over, but the determination was broken six minutes into the second half.
Gareth Hall, who had replaced the injured Eddie Newton at the break, chipped invitingly forward for the alert Graham Stuart and his cutback from the right was headed in by Mal Donaghy for his second goal in successive games. Not bad after a five-year drought.
The punishment was swift and precise. Darren Barnard, who gave his marker, Curtis Fleming, a miserable afternoon, slipped past the Boro right-back for the umpteenth time and crossed towards Tony Cascarino. The tall Irishman, who gave one of his most impressive displays, touched back to little John Spencer, whose shot whistled in.
Chelsea's tails were up and the third came from Stuart, who turned in Steve Clarke's cross- shot from the right. Seconds from the end, Barnard recorded his first senior goal, volleying Andy Townsend's cross from the right past a bemused Ian Ironside.
'Most of the players are ill- equipped for the standards of the Premier League,' Lawrence said of the players who have produced only seven points since Boxing Day. The contrast with Chelsea - who rose from 14th to ninth - could not have been more distinct.
Chelsea: D Beasant; S Clarke, F Sinclair, A Townsend, E Johnsen, M Donaghy, G Stuart, J Spencer (R Fleck, 75), T Cascarino, E Newton ( G Hall, h/t), D Barnard. Sub not used: D Kharin (gk). Manager: D Webb.
Middlesbrough: I Ironside; C Fleming, J Phillips, C Hignett (D Marshall, 67), A Kernaghan, D Whyte, J Hendrie, R Mustoe, P Wilkinson, W Falconer, T Wright. Subs not used: A Collett (gk), N Mohan. Manager: L Lawrence.
Referee: F Worrall (Warrington).
Goals: Donaghy (1-0, 51 min); Spencer: (2-0, 61 min); Stuart (3-0, 73 min); Barnard (4-0, 90 min).Reuse content