Koren double puts Southgate on the brink

West Bromwich Albion 3 Middlesbrough 0: Midfielder helps lift West Bromwich off the bottom and forces Boro's manager to admit results have put his job at risk
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Not only did West Bromwich Albion introduce Fortune to their attack; they also added some to theirsurvival effort in climbing off the bottom for the first time since early November.

Two deflected goals, the firsthighly dubious, the second off the legs of the striker they borrowed from Nancy this week, set up the victory that further congests the log-jam at the Premier League basement.

It also left Middlesbrough's manager Gareth Southgate recognising the threat to his job. "Steve Gibson is a ruthless businessman and I couldn't have any complaints on the basis of results if he made a change," he admitted. "I'm led to believe he's totally supportive but I don't sit here thinking I'm bullet-proof."

Southgate described the result as horrific, Albion's third consecutive home victory spelling a fourth successive away defeat for Middlesbrough, whose 10th win-less game in a row was compounded by the dismissal of the midfielder Didier Digard and four woeful misses from Afonso Alves.

Maybe Mark Halsey perceived Digard's 62nd minute challenge on Borja Valero as two-footed, although TV evidence supported Southgate's contention that the decision was controversial. If the game was not dead already, it was at that moment.

Never before in three-and-a-half seasons' trying had Albion registered a Premier League double. Having scored only four first-half League goals this season, they needed that many minutes here to strike. Tony McMahon blundered in heading away Carl Hoefkens' right-wing cross and then sent a left-foot drive by Chris Brunt, who had stepped back from offside, spinning beyond Ross Turnbull.

Alves headed against the crossbar after Scott Carson failed to clear Stewart Downing's free-kick, stabbed wide from 12 yards and then eluded Leon Barnett, only to be superbly denied by Carson. Middlesbrough knew it was not their day when the Brazilian planted a free second-half header wide.

In Jay Simpson and Marc-Antoine Fortune, Albion carried menace going forward, though, and they soon doubled their lead when midfielder Robert Koren played a one-two with Fortune and rolled a right-foot shot in off the back of the striker's legs, then Koren turned Brunt's delightful through ball past the goalkeeper.

"Things went for us," said Albion's manager and Teesside legend Tony Mowbray. "We were hanging on in the first half and it was a bit harsh on Middlesbrough."

Attendance: 25,557

Referee: Mark Halsey

Man of the match: Koren

Match rating: 7/10