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Stoke 1-0 Middlesbrough

By Pranav Soneji

Rory Delap jumps on goalscorer Ryan Shawcross at the Britannia Stadium
Ryan Shawcross celebrates his winner with goal creator Rory Delap

Ryan Shawcross' 84th-minute winner saw Stoke move out of the relegation zone after victory over fellow strugglers Middlesbrough at the Britannia Stadium.

The defender ran across the six-yard box to glance Rory Delap's long throw past Brad Jones on 84 minutes.

James Beattie wasted a good chance to give Stoke the lead on 71 minutes when his header blazed over the crossbar.

Middlesbrough's best chance fell to Gary O'Neil, whose powerful shot was well saved by Thomas Sorensen.

The victory moves Stoke out of the bottom three as well as opening up a five-point lead over Boro, who remain rooted in the relegation zone in 19th place.

The defeat leaves Gareth Southgate's side without a point from their last eight away matches as once again they failed to hit the back of the net on their travels.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis made one change from the side that lost 3-1 to Everton, with striker Ricardo Fuller returning from a shoulder injury in place of Mamady Sidibe, while Southgate recalled Gary O'Neil, Mohamed Shawky and Andrew Taylor.

Pulis credits 'special' Stoke support

The first half was littered with needless fouls - referee Lee Mason's whistle had been in danger of disintegrating through constant use as a physical first half saw Fuller, Glenn Whelan and Salif Diao earning yellow cards for over-zealous challenges.

A congested midfield made passing almost impossible and inevitably, Stoke's best chance of the first half came from a long throw-in from Delap on seven minutes.

The midfielder found Liam Lawrence, whose header found an unmarked Beattie, but his snap-shot from six yards was turned past the far post by goalkeeper Jones.

Boro crafted their first chance of the game on 15 minutes when Tony McMahon headed Andrew Taylor's pinpoint left-wing cross straight into the arms of Thomas Sorensen.


Middlesbrough's Tuncay came the closest to breaking the deadlock on 33 minutes with a moment of brilliance, turning just outside the 18-yard-box to curl a fizzing, right-footed shot over Sorensen, as well as the crossbar, much to the Turkey international's dismay.

With little entertainment on offer at the start of the second half, Pulis withdrew Diao and brought on winger Matthew Etherington on 50 minutes, while Southgate introduced record signing Afonso Alves five minutes later, with Marlon King making way.

And it was the visitors who had the first opportunity of the second half when O'Neil's powerful right-foot strike was turned past his left-hand post by Sorensen.

It is a significant loss - Southgate

Stoke responded almost immediately when another Delap long throw-in presented Beattie with a goalscoring opportunity, only to see the striker thump his eight-yard strike over the crossbar.

The former Everton forward should have given his side the lead on 71 minutes after Lawrence's cross found him completely unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, but he somehow contrived to head over the crossbar.

But Shawcross spared Beattie's blushes 13 minutes later when he ran across the static Boro defence to glance a fine header past the despairing dive of Jones.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis:
"It was lovely to keep a clean sheet, we were very competitive and sometimes you have to grind results out.

"The supporters were immense. They kept the players going, especially in the second half, with the noise they created.

"In the last eight or nine minutes they really got behind the players, they were really special."

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:
"We defended their set plays really well but the one time we didn't, the ball ends up in the back of the net. It's a heavy price to pay.

"I thought we worked the ball well but our quality in the final third was not what it should have been.

"We have two weeks before our next fixture and we still have eight more games, but we have a real uphill battle."

Stoke : Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Lawrence, Diao, Whelan, Delap, Beattie, Fuller.
Subs: Simonsen, Sidibe, Amdy Faye, Kelly, Etherington, Camara, Sonko.

Middlesbrough : Jones, McMahon, Wheater, Huth, Taylor, O'Neil, Shawky, Pogatetz, Downing, Sanli, King.
Subs: Turnbull, Hoyte, Emnes, Alves, Arca, Adam Johnson, Grounds. Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Middlesbrough's Tuncay Sanli with 8.25 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Premier League as it happened
21 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
21 Mar 09 |  Football

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