Downing deserves England call

Middlesbrough 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
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The Independent Online

The Riverside Stadium is in the middle of a regeneration zone. With every home game, the piles of tarmac and mud grow higher as the earth-movers rip out the past in preparation for the future.

The Riverside Stadium is in the middle of a regeneration zone. With every home game, the piles of tarmac and mud grow higher as the earth-movers rip out the past in preparation for the future.

On the pitch, Stewart Downing helped Middlesbrough record their first League win of 2005 with Franck Queudrue's third goal in a fortnight. Downing found the Frenchman bursting into the box to score.

Shortly after the final whistle, Sven Goran Eriksson announced that Downing would be given an England chance on Wednesday. "He'll do well because I think England are struggling on the left of midfield - Wayne Bridge is not a midfielder, he's a defender," said Queudrue. "Stewy's got two good feet - he hit the post with his right just before I scored - so he's not just a winger. He comes inside and goes outside so the defenders don't know how to take him."

His manager, Steve McClaren, the England assistant, said: "He's done consistently well over five or six months now, and we're crying out for a left-sided midfielder."

At 20, Downing is one of the older heads at injury-ravaged Middlesbrough, and surely one of the wiser ones given the reckless way Ray Parlour was dismissed in the 89th minute for kicking the ball away. Four local lads younger than Downing were also involved on Saturday, including the 19-year-old winger James Morrison.

"You can't beat wingers in the modern game," said McClaren. "Someone who can take the ball and beat players is a rarity."

Blackburn had a header from Paul Dickov and a penalty call from the same player to show for their efforts. "We need someone to come in and grab that shirt and say 'it's mine' by the level of their performances," said their manager Mark Hughes. The only zone Blackburn are looking at is relegation.

Goal: Queudrue (35) 1-0.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Southgate, Reiziger, Queudrue; Morrison (Bates, 89), Parlour, Zenden, Downing; Job (Doriva, 73), Christie (Graham, 69). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), McMahon.

Blackburn Rovers (4-1-4-1): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo; Mokoena (Johnson, 60); Emerton, Savage, Thompson (Reid, 78), Pedersen; Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Johansson, Flitcroft.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire)

Booked: Middlesbrough: Parlour. Blackburn: Mokoena, Matteo.

Sent-off: Parlour (89).

Man of the match: Downing.

Attendance: 30,564.

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