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Friday, April 24, 1998 Published at 23:50 GMT 00:50 UK

Sport: Football

Merson's magic makes Boro's hopes rise
image: [ The goal was Merson's first for Boro since February ]
The goal was Merson's first for Boro since February

Middlesbrough have boosted their chances of being promoted straight back to the Premiership after a Paul Merson goal gave them a 1-0 win against Port Vale.

Merson, fresh from appearing as a substitute for England at Wembley 48 hours earlier, struck after just 75 seconds.

His goal on Friday means Boro leapfrog Sunderland and Charlton into second place in the First Division.

End of a goal drought

[ image: Merson: fresh from international duties]
Merson: fresh from international duties
The goal was Merson's first for his club since his penalty against Liverpool in the Coca-Cola Cup on February 18 and his 16th of the season following his move from Arsenal last summer.

Boro were even able to overcome the absence of ankle injury victim Paul Gascoigne and several other top players to record a crucial win.

They now have two home fixtures - against mid-table duo Wolves and Oxford - and they sit firmly in the driving seat in the battle for the second automatic slot behind leaders Nottingham Forest.

The defeat leaves Vale just two points above the relegation zone. It seemed a harsh result to many Vale fans as their team enjoyed the lion's share of possession and chances only to find Boro keeper Mark Schwarzer in inspired form.


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