Middlesbrough 2-1 Southampton: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:29 22/04/12 By MirrorFootball
The Saints could march back into the Premier League tonight – not that Nigel Adkins will be watching.
If West Ham fail to beat Leicester tonight, Southampton will end a seven-year top-flight exile that’s seen them on the brink of financial meltdown while plumbing the depths of League One.
But boss Adkins will resist the temptation to be at the game or watch on TV, instead adding to his list of board-game distractions at the business end of the campaign.
After passing up a recent chance to see the Hammers in action by enjoying a game of Scrabble with his son, he revealed: “I won’t watch the West Ham game. I might have a game of backgammon. I think the best thing to do is get yourself occupied doing something else.
“I expect West Ham to win the game. All our focus will be on what we can do, and that’s prepare properly for the next match at home against Coventry.”
If the Hammers take it to the final day, due to their superior goal difference, the Saints could need as little as a point against the relegated Sky Blues to seal back-to-back promotions in front of a 32,000 full-house at St Mary’s.
Adam Lallana is less confident than his manager about distracting himself from events at Leicester. The midfielder said: “It’ll be impossible not to watch it, or at least keep an eye on what’s happening. The prize is so great we’re bound to want to know what’s going on.
“Hopefully, Leicester will want to go out on a high in front of their own fans. But West Ham are a good team so you never know what will happen. It’s still in our hands on Saturday and that’s the most important thing. We fancy ourselves against anyone at home.”
Despite the dream start of Billy Sharp’s close-range finish after just 46 seconds, Saints handed the title to Reading as they wilted under the weight of a stirring Middlesbrough comeback that keeps the Teessiders’ slim play-off hopes alive.
Merouane Zemmama curled home a memorable 25-yard free-kick to seal only a second win in 11 games, after man-of-the-match Nicky Bailey (below) hauled Boro level in first-half stoppage time with a stunning low volley past Kelvin Davis.
Tony Mowbray’s men must now win their last game at Watford and keep their fingers crossed Cardiff lose at Crystal Palace to sneak into the final play-off spot.
But Mowbray isn’t getting his hopes up, and conceded that if Boro fail to make the play-offs, they can have no complaints.
He said: “Just two wins in 11 suggests we’ve let our season slip away. We’ve had too many draws but we’re still there fighting going into the last day.
“Whoever makes the play-offs deserves to be there. If we don’t make it, we’ve not been quite good enough. I expect Cardiff to get what they need from Palace, but if they don’t, we have to make sure we keep our end of the bargain to take advantage.”