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Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Sunday, 24 May 2009 18:03 UK

West Ham 2-1 Middlesbrough

By Mark Ashenden

Justin Hoyte and Gareth Southgate
Defender Hoyte is consoled by his manager after defeat at West Ham

Middlesbrough's 11-year stay in the Premier League came to a halt at Upton Park after Gareth Southgate's side lost rather limply to West Ham.

It was a must-win game for Boro but any hopes of survival were soon dashed with a first-half strike by Carlton Cole who slotted in Herita Ilunga's cross.

Gary O'Neil gave the visitors brief hope after the break, blasting in after a dazzling run by Tuncay Sanli.

But Junior Stanislas sealed Boro's fate with a soft shot creeping into the net.

The visiting fans were understandably distraught, having enjoyed watching their team play Premier League football since 1998 when manager Bryan Robson steered them to promotion.

Their side began the afternoon second from bottom knowing survival depended on other results going their way, with Hull and Newcastle needing to lose to Manchester United and Aston Villa respectively.

The other part of the equation was for Boro to win at West Ham and being the lowest top-flight goal scorers they had a mountain to climb against Gianfranco Zola's impressive side.

Relegation is a 'hard lesson' - Southgate

With Marlon King injured in Saturday's training session and Jeremie Aliadiere out with a knee problem, manager Gareth Southgate had to start with Tuncay on his own up front.

It was a sleepy start from both sides and Boro, needing all the luck going, had the woodwork to thank after 24 minutes for keeping out Stanislas' deflected 30-yard shot.

Five minutes later, Stanislas again tried his luck, but the 19-year-old's shot limped disappointingly more towards the corner flag than the goal.

Boro showed a brief glimpse of invention with David Wheater failing to chip Rob Green after the goalkeeper had dropped the ball under pressure from Robert Huth.

But with the visitors looking increasingly shaky at the back, it was no surprise that Cole struck the opener for West Ham.

The hard-working Luis Boa Morte did well to create space on the left and threaded a neat pass through to Ilunga.


The Democratic Republic of Congo international crossed along the six-yard line to find the unmarked Cole, in his first game for six weeks after a groin strain, who calmly slotted in his 12th of the season.

Boro needed a miracle, in fact several miracles knowing they had an inferior goal difference to Hull, but they were given a glimmer of hope immediately after the break.

Tuncay had the West Ham defenders trailing in his wake after a mazy run down the middle and the ball fell to O'Neil on the right who wasted little time in crashing home his fourth of the season.

Off the bench came Joe Bennett and Josh Walker after the interval and Boro's tails were soon pointing upwards after midfielder Matthew Bates went close with a 30-yard piledriver.

But parity lasted a mere eight minutes as they conceded a very soft goal which sent Southgate's head bowing into his hands.

In a sweeping move on the edge of the box, Jack Collison passed into Stanislas and his low shot should have been dealt with by Brad Jones, but the ball slipped through his fingers.

Victory 'perfect end' to season - Zola

Kieron Dyer was introduced for only his eighth appearance of the season and the former England star was unlucky not to score after a fine turn in the box.

Southgate said before the game he was already preparing for next season in the Championship and when the disappointment recedes in the summer he may be buoyed by lively performances from youngsters Joe Bennett, Bates and Adam Johnson.

The final chance of the game fell to West Ham's Lucas Neill who tried an audacious lob in the dying minutes but then came the dreaded whistle for Boro.

It was their 15th away defeat of the season and it will be a long summer for many of the fans shedding tears in the stands.

The Hammers, meanwhile, can reflect on an impressive season having secured a ninth-place finish in what has been an impressive first campaign for Zola.

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate:
"It's a low for our football club, our supporters, our players and staff.

"The club will grieve tonight but the future will start tomorrow. It's a painful blow but we have to take the pain and move forward."

West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola:
"It's been a fantastic season. Today was a prefect way to finish it.

"It's been a team performance and credit has to go to everyone. We now have to build on what we have done. The structure is there so we will keep moving."

West Ham: Green, Spector, Neill, Upson, Ilunga, Noble (Dyer 53), Kovac, Collison (Di Michele 72), Boa Morte, Cole (Tristan 63), Stanislas.
Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Lopez, Nsereko, Payne.

Goals: Cole 33, Stanislas 58.

Middlesbrough: Jones, McMahon (Bennett 46), Wheater, Huth, Hoyte, O'Neil, Bates, Arca (Walker 46), Adam Johnson, Sanli, Emnes (Franks 81).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Shawky, Williams, Grounds.

Booked: O'Neil.

Goals: O'Neil 50.

Att: 34,007

Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: West Ham's Carlton Cole with 9.00 (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 photos
24 May 09 |  Premier League
What now for north-east football?
24 May 09 |  Football
Premier League as it happened
24 May 09 |  Football
Southgate braced for player exits
25 May 09 |  Middlesbrough

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