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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 17:08 GMT
Festa sinks Everton
Steve Watson fails to score from close range
Steve Watson had to go off in the second half
Middlesbrough 1-0 Everton
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Everton's miserable Christmas campaign continued as they were consigned to their fifth consecutive defeat on New Year's Day.

Gianluca Festa, in his first start since last April, was the unlikely scorer at the Riverside, grabbing the vital goal at the beginning of the second half.

  Match facts
44mins: Ferguson hit the crossbar for Everton
47mins: Everton's Moore comes close
50mins: Festa scored for Boro
The battling win gives Middlesbrough three crucial points as Steve McClaren's men attempt to climb out of the danger area at the bottom of the Premiership.

But Everton boss Walter Smith will be wondering about his future at Goodison Park as his team continue their free-fall towards the relegation zone.

With Canadian international Tomasz Radzinski out for up to three weeks due to stomach muscle injury, under-pressure coach Smith clearly had few options up front.

The desperation of the Toffees' injury crisis could be seen from the recall of out-of favour striker Danny Cadamarteri to partner a not fully fit Duncan Ferguson in attack.


As a manager you have to remain optimistic but I have no comment to make on my situation
Everton boss Walter Smith
But against the odds, it was Everton who carved out the opening chance when Scott Gemmill tried to release Cadamarteri.

Luckily for Middlesbrough, keeper Mark Crossley was alert to the danger and diverted the ball to safety.

Despite some decent runs, Boro failed to threaten the Everton goalmouth with any decent shots in a dour first half.

Everton did have their promising moments, such as Alan Stubbs testing Crossley's reflexes with a downward header narrowly wide of the post, and later Ferguson was to be denied by the crossbar.

Alen Boksic (left) and Gianluca Festa (right)
Festa (right) celebrates his goal with substitute Boksic
But, unsurprisingly for two sides struggling at the wrong end of the table, the first half ended goalless.

Boro made a better start after the break with Carlos Marinelli shooting just wide after being put through on the Everton goal.

Joe-Max Moore, who came on for Cadamarteri in the first half, had an opportunity to put Everton ahead when he found space in the box to rattle in a shot that Crossley did well to divert for a corner.

But Middlesbrough's Festa finally broke the deadlock in the 50th minute after Everton failed to clear a Hamilton Ricard corner to give Boro the lift they needed.

It had happened moments after Everton boss Smith had brought on Tony Hibbert for Watson, who was struggling on the hard icy pitch.


This is a massive win for us after a bad December
Boro boss Steve McLaren
Without Watson or Niclas Alexandersson, who was replaced by Jesper Blomqvist at halftime, Everton had trouble coming up with fresh ideas in attack.

The one-goal lead left little breathing space for Middlesbrough, who desperately needed points to escape the danger area of the league table.

But the home side could afford to feel comfortable, knowing the spluttering Everton side were unlikely to muster an upset.


Middlesbrough: Crossley, Festa, Southgate, Queudrue (Stamp 63), Stockdale, Mustoe, Ince, Greening (Gavin 45), Marinelli (Boksic 82), Ricard, Whelan. Subs Not Used: Nemeth, Beresford.

Booked: Gavin.

Everton: Simonsen, Watson (Hibbert 50), Stubbs, Weir, Unsworth, Xavier, Alexandersson (Blomqvist 45), Naysmith, Gemmill, Ferguson, Cadamarteri (Moore 38). Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Tal.

Booked: Ferguson, Stubbs.

Att: 27,463

Ref: R Styles (Waterlooville).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Peter Slater
"Everton offered less the more the game progressed"
Everton manager Walter Smith
"We can only blame ourselves"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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