Football

Southgate seeks league improvement

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Gareth Southgate has urged his Middlesbrough players to take their cup form into the battle for Barclays Premier League survival as they set their sights on Wembley.

Goals from Stewart Downing and Tuncay Sanli secured a 2-0 win over West Ham to ease the Teessiders into the FA Cup quarter-finals for the fourth successive season and end Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola's dreams of winning the competition at the first attempt as a manager.

Southgate, whose side currently sit in 19th place in the table, said: "It gives everybody renewed optimism. In terms of the season, it keeps people's dreams alive."

He added: "Football is about dreams and that's why we have always wanted to take the cup competitions seriously.

"There's no priority for us. We feel we need to get into the habit of scoring and the habit of winning, and hopefully that can follow into the league programme for us."

Downing's expertly-executed fifth-minute free-kick gave Boro the perfect start, and when Tuncay rifled home a volley 15 minutes later, the Teessiders were firmly in the driving seat.

Zola admitted Downing's superb opener had knocked the stuffing out of his side.

He said: "You prepare everything properly and then you have a player that puts the ball in the top corner. Maybe the second goal, we have something to talk about.

"It was very important we scored straight away after half-time. We didn't manage to do that, so it made it difficult.

"In situations like that, the confidence for the other team increases and ours goes down, and that was the case."

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Topics:
Stewart Downing
Football
Tuncay Sanli
Premier League
Gareth Southgate
Gianfranco Zola
West Ham United
Middlesbrough

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