Wheater's ban adds to Boro defensive woes

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The Independent Online

The Middlesbrough manager, Gareth Southgate, is facing a defensive crisis as he prepares for Saturday's Premier League match with Arsenal. Boro have decided not to appeal against David Wheater's red card at Hull City at the weekend, and that means he will miss the Gunners' visit to the Riverside Stadium.

With the captain Emanuel Pogatetz needing pain-killing injections in a shoulder injury before and at half-time in the game at the KC Stadium, and Robert Huth and Chris Riggott still working their way back to full fitness, Southgate's options could be limited.

Southgate indicated after his side's 2-1 defeat at Hull that an appeal against Wheater's dismissal was a possibility. The defender was sent off by referee Steve Tanner for bringing down Geovanni, although the Teessiders insisted the Brazilian had come from an offside position and were adamant the flag should have gone up before the incident.

However, having considered their options, and the additional penalties for "frivolous" appeals, Boro have decided to take the medicine. Their disappointment at the time was understandable as Tuncay Sanli's 79th-minute strike had given them the lead before goalkeeper Ross Turnbull's own goal got Hull back into the game, and Wheater's challenge handed Marlon King the chance to win the game from the penalty spot, which he did.

The defeat left Boro in 12th place in the table, but just four points better off than managerless Sunderland inside the relegation zone, and they have claimed only four of the last 15 points they have contested on their home ground.

Pogatetz admitted: "The table is very tight and we have to start picking up points sooner rather than later. We don't want to be towards the bottom end of the table come the end of the season. The performances aren't too bad, but the results are just not good enough."

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