Middlesbrough 1 West Ham Utd 0: Maccarone goal papers cracks for Southgate

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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate, the former England international, would appear to be winning his battle to retain the manager's job at Middlesbrough after it emerged that Football Association chiefs will look favourably on an appeal for special dispensation allowing him to continue coaching in the Premiership this season.

Whether an increasingly disillusioned Riverside Stadium crowd will view such leniency from Soho Square in a positive light, after this latest unconvincing performance, remains to be seen. Southgate may well be allowed to manage until next May but whether he should is another matter. No amount of coaching qualifications will make it any clearer to Steve McClaren's successor that these are the games he must win convincingly and Massimo Maccarone's well-taken 74th-minute winner barely papered over the cracks following a truly disappointing display.

If Southgate seems certain to remain as Middlesbrough manager then he must prepare for the unexpected mental, as well as the obvious physical, rigours of long-term employment in the Premiership.

A glance to his left would have brought Alan Pardew, the West Ham United manager, into sharp focus less than a week after this previously cool tactician was reduced to the role of tub-thumping rabble-rouser by a game which does the strangest of things to the sanest of men. Southgate is not prone to wild celebration or fist-waving passion but then who could have imagined Arsène Wenger becoming involved in an improbable touchline scrap with an atypically aggressive peer?

Reverting back to his studious and unobtrusive self, Pardew observed an uneventful first half with notebook in hand and ballpoint pen poised for action.If the Hammers hardly mustered a chance of note before the interval then Boro were reduced to a series of hopeful long-range punts which did little to unnerve the England goalkeeper, Robert Green. Stewart Downing, the left winger, tested his international colleague with a stinging left-foot drive after 31 minutes but West Ham's last line of defence dealt comfortably with the threat. With first-half injury time under way the Boro forward, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, raced clear but central defender Danny Gabbidon intercepted the danger.

The Brazilian midfielder, Fabio Rochemback, tried to introduce some much-needed creativity four minutes after the restart when his audacious left-foot drive narrowly cleared the angle of crossbar and post. However, the South American had failed to impress in the hole behind Aiyegbeni Yakubu and was replaced by the forward Massimo Maccarone with 21 minutes remaining. Five minutes later the Italian substitute latched on to a Lee Cattermole header after West Ham failed to clear a corner and rounded Green before finishing with aplomb from the tightest of angles.