FA Cup: Middlesbrough 1-0 Accrington


Stewart Downing celebrates with team mates after scoring Middlesbrough's winner against Accrington

Forgotten man Stewart Downing fired Middlesbrough into the FA Cup fifth round with a 1-0 win as League Two Accrington finally succumbed at the Riverside Stadium.


Downing, who has opted to stay on Teesside and fight for his place after being linked with a January loan move, drilled home from distance with 69 minutes gone to remind head coach Aitor Karanka of his enduring quality and dash Stanley's hopes of a replay.

The victory was no more than the Premier League side deserved, although they made hard work of it in front of a crowd of 24,040.

Boro went into the game desperate to avoid a repeat of their Capital One Cup defeat by Accrington at the same venue in August 2013. With seven changes from last weekend's league loss against West Ham, however, they were unable to make their dominance of possession count before the break.

With full-back Fabio on the right and winger Viktor Fischer on the left finding space, and Grant Leadbitter and Downing seeing plenty of the ball through the middle, they worked themselves into good positions.

For the most part though, they were unable to find a telling final ball and although gaps began to appear, they were not exploited.

Fischer only just failed to convert from Downing's 18th-minute free-kick and the former England international curled a shot just wide after the Dane's initial effort had been blocked seconds later.

Patrick Bamford saw an effort deflected wide after good work by Downing and Fischer forced a regulation save from keeper Marek Rodak on the stroke of half-time, but that was as good as it got for the home side. Indeed, their opponents had chances of their own, with central defender Omar Beckles heading over from a Sean McConville corner and Dean Clare forcing a block from keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos.

Stanley might have taken the lead in first-half stoppage time when Clare crossed to the near post, where striker Billy Kee only just failed to make contact. Bamford saw a strike loop up off defender Janoi Donacien before it was plucked from beneath the crossbar by Rodak then forced a block from Mark Hughes as he bore down on goal.

McConville called upon Konstantopoulos after cutting inside Fabio but the traffic was heading largely in the other direction. Sure enough, the deadlock was finally broken when Downing smashed a long-range drive into Rodak's top right corner.

Rodak made fine saves from Rudy Gestede and substitutes Cristhian Stuani and Adama Traore as time ran down and Middlesbrough could have won by more.

Instead, they had to settle for a single-goal margin and might even have been taken to a replay late on but McConville's header missed the target from close range.


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