Whatever the outcome of Crystal Palace's fight against relegation, the departure of one of their brightest young players this summer looks inevitable. Wayne Routledge has been barracked by sections of the Palace crowd since refusing to sign a new contract and a confrontation with supporters after Saturday's match at Selhurst Park ended with the 20-year-old England Under-21 international throwing his shirt on the ground and storming off.
Palace have not given up hope of keeping Routledge, who has been a long-term target for Tottenham Hotspur, but it is hard to see him staying now. Iain Dowie, Palace's manager, was not available for comment after the game. His assistant, Kit Symons, said he had not seen the incident but would not condone any such behaviour. "If Iain thinks there's anything to be dealt with he will do so," Symons said.
Routledge, switching from wing to wing, was Palace's most creative player, but that was not saying much. Despite enjoying the majority of the possession, Dowie's men rarely threatened after Andy Johnson twice went close in the opening 20 minutes.
For the rest of the game Dougie Freedman and Johnson were kept under lock and key by Gareth Southgate and Chris Riggott, who were outstanding at the centre of the Middlesbrough defence.
In the first half Middlesbrough regularly threatened to break through a shaky Palace defence badly missing the injured Gonzalo Sorondo and Emmerson Boyce. Franck Queudrue headed the winning goal, taking advantage of poor marking at a corner, to put Boro back in the race for a Uefa Cup place. However, Mark Viduka, making his first appearance since Boxing Day, lasted only 12 minutes before damaging a hamstring and Boudewijn Zenden departed with an ankle injury.
Palace's chances of avoiding the drop look increasingly likely to depend on forthcoming home matches against Norwich City and Southampton.
Goal: Queudrue (35) 0-1.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Leigertwood, Hall, Hudson, Granville (Borrowdale, 54); Routledge, Hughes, Riihilahti (Andrews, 79), Soares (Lakis, 71); Johnson, Freedman. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Watson.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Parlour, Boateng, Zenden (Doriva, 53), Downing; Viduka (Nemeth, 12; Graham, 80), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Cooper.
Referee: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).
Booked: Middlesbrough: Riggott, Queudrue, Boateng, Hasselbaink.
Man of the match: Southgate.
Attendance: 24,274.Reuse content