Southgate 'relieved of duties' despite win

Middlesbrough 2 Derby County 0
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The Independent Football

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate was late last night relieved of his duties within hours of guiding his side to victory over Derby.

The 39-year-old former England defender's departure was confirmed in a brief statement issued through the clubs official website after midnight. The statement read: "Middlesbrough FC have tonight announced that manager Gareth Southgate has been relieved of his position with immediate effect. Football consultant Alan Smith will also be leaving the club as part of the change."

Despite Boro's rocky recent run it still came as as a surprise especially as just a few hours earlier, Adam Johnson had showed why Premier League clubs are queuing up to bid for the winger when his Middlesbrough contract expires at the end of the season. Middlesbrough persuaded Johnson to see out the final year of his current deal in the belief that he could make the difference between promotion and another troubled season.

Last night's evidence offered further confirmation that it was a shrewd move by Southgate, who had actually ended the match feeling marginally more secure about his own future after avoiding a fourth successive defeat here. "You do wonder about the consequence of a defeat," admitted Southgate in the press conference following the match. "We couldn't put our fans through another defeat at home."

Johnson scored the opening goal from the penalty spot and produced the only memorable moment of a dismal match with a superb second goal out of keeping with the dross that surrounded it. Southgate said: "I wasn't sure if it was a penalty, but he did clip him. It just shows how tight the margins are between success and failure. My wife thinks football is abut luck, so I guess she know s more than I do."

Derby were a team in disarray, particularly in the opening half, with nobody more unsettled than Gary Teale, who was involved in angry arguments with team-mates Robbie Savage and Dean Leacock.

The disruption caused by injuries to James McEveley and Kris Commons inside the opening 20 minutes provided some excuse for manager Nigel Clough, who was already without several influential players.

Clough said: "That's going to be us until we get some players back on the pitch. We conceded a soft penalty for the first goal and that goal was always going to be so important when two teams are low on confidence."

That vital first goal arrived in the 22nd minute after an unnecessary foul the edge of the area by Shaun Barker on Johnson, who struck the penalty with an assurance which had previously been absent in both teams.

Southgate said: "We have always maintained a sense of perspective. We approached the game in the right manner and we were effective, without being attractive to watch."

They were to prove his final public words as manager of Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Jones; Hoyte, Wheater, St Ledger, Bennett; O'Neil, Williams, Digard (Yeates, 81), Johnson; Lita, Aliadiere (Emnes, 89). Substitutes not used: Coyne, Pogatetz, Walker, Grounds, McMahon.

Derby County (4-4-2): Bywater; Connolly, Leacock, Barker, Moxey; Teale (Mills, 78), Savage, Livermor, McEveley (Croft, 20); Commons (Dickov, 12), Hulse. Substitutes not used: Deeney, Buxton, Hendrie.

Referee: J Moss (Yorkshire).

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