Boro broken as fans turn on Southgate

GARETH SOUTHGATE was putting on a brave face in the wake of another harrowing afternoon at the Riverside, but the inner turmoil he was suffering spoke volumes for a plight that has now grown so extreme that even his own supporters have turned against him.

Southgate has set his heart on leading Middlesbrough back into the Premier League next season. Relegation on the final afternoon of the season is now inevitable barring a mathematical miracle in the wake of this frustrating stalemate for the home team.

The truth is, however, that Southgate’s heart might just be left broken after he was jeered, booed and abused by his own supporters at the final whistle.

The Middlesbrough players who remained on the field were given a generous reception considering the circumstances, but supporters have decided Southgate is to blame for the club’s demise and even a chairman with the patience of Steve Gibson will have been disturbed to hear the levels of abuse being meted out on Teesside.

Middlesbrough had given themselves some hope to cling to when Tuncay put them ahead in spectacular fashion in the first half. He beat Brad Friedel with a stunning overhead kick on 14 minutes and the great escape was still on.

Such hope was extinguished, however, when John Carew equalised just before the hour mark to deny Boro the win they so desperately needed.

“I do believe that amid the emotion of things it’s easy to make quick decisions that are wrong,” Southgate said.

“I expected an adverse reaction if we didn’t get a result, I expected it to come towards me – I’m the manager, I have to take responsibility and I’m glad it came to me and not the players because I can handle it.

“I’ve had plenty of difficult moments, I’ve lost cup finals, been relegated as a player, Euro 96 was something that only a couple of other people in the country have had to deal with.

“Whatever’s thrown my way I can handle. We know that whatever happens at the end of the season, certain players will leave.”

Tuncay is one of those, having already received an offer from Fenerbahçe to return to his native Turkey.

“I don’t know when I will be back in Turkey – I want to continue my football life in England,” he said. “But I still support Fenerbahçe, I’m good friends with my old team-mates and I speak to them all the time.”

Another Premier League club is almost certain to offer him a chance to remain in England, and the same applies to Stewart Downing, who was stretchered off after 24 minutes with a foot injury. Tottenham, Liverpool and Villa have all been linked with the winger, who will be granted a transfer by Gibson this summer.

Villa, having turned Grim Reaper on Boro, can take their scythe to Newcastle by beating them at Villa Park on Sunday.

“I don’t want to sound patronising but I do feel for them,” Martin O’Neill, the manager, said. “But we have to try to win these games.”

MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Jones 7, Bates 6, Wheater 6, Huth 7, Hoyte 7, Johnson 7, O’Neil 7 (Walker 72, 7), Arca 6, Downing 7 (King 24, 6), Emnes 7, Tuncay 8.

Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Taylor, Shawky, McMahon, Grounds.

ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Friedel 7, Milner 7, Cuellar 7, Davies 7, Shorey 6, Agbonlahor 6, Petrov 6, Barry 7, Young 6 (Reo-Coker 70, 5), Carew 8, Heskey 6.

Subs Not Used: Guzan, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Knight, Gardner, Clark.

REFEREE: Mike Riley (Yorkshire) 7: Should have booked Stiliyan Petrov for his crude challenge on Stewart Downing.

MATCH RATING: **: Started brightly, with Middlesbrough dominating with a brand of football which betrayed their league position.

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