Weary Zola relieved to stop rot

Middlesbrough 1 West Ham United 1
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The Independent Football

Gianfranco Zola looked older than his 42 years on Saturday. "I'm tired," he said, "It's been a long week." It is 54 days since Zola agreed to replace Alan Curbishley at West Ham and in that time the Hammers have played eight league games, lost five, won two and on Saturday got a first draw. They have also been knocked out of the League Cup by Watford.

The point at Middlesbrough mattered because it stopped a run of four consecutive defeats. West Ham deserved to win. They played the better football, took an early lead through Hayden Mullins and might have scored four but for Boro's improving goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.

Depending on how you look at it, West Ham are now two points off seventh – or 17th. Their next six fixtures look hard, beginning with Everton at Upton Park on Saturday. "I have been in the job for a couple of months now, and it has been tough," Zola said. "I can assure you, I thought it was much easier than this."

Injuries of the number Curbishley knew well have curtailed options so 18-year-old Freddie Sears started alongside Craig Bellamy. The pair were impressive.

Gareth Southgate, who knows strife, spoke of the need for patience in midweek but his team was booed off at half-time. The introduction of quality players, Julio Arca and then Mido, made the difference and Boro clawed their way back, Mido's intelligent late free-kick scurrying into the bottom corner. It was Mido's fifth of the season, even though much of it has been spent in the treatment room or on the bench. "I have to prove that I should be in the team," he said. "All I can do is make the manager's life difficult."

Zola: take note.

Goals: Mullins (21) 0-1; Mido (83) 1-1.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Turnbull; Wheater (Hoyte, h-t) Riggott, Pogatetz, Taylor; Aliadière, O'Neil, Digard (Arca, 57) Downing; Tuncay, Alves (Mido, 67). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), A Johnson, Grounds, Emnes.

West Ham United (4-4-2) Green; Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga; Faubert, Collison, Mullins, Boa Morte (Bowyer, 85); Bellamy, Sears (Etherington, 74). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Lopez, Tristan, Tomkins, Di Michele

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Middlesbrough Riggott, Arca; West Ham Neill, Collison, Boa Morte, Bellamy.

Man of the match: Bellamy.

Attendance: 25,164.

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