Relegation unthinkable for Boro's Schwarzer

December 8, 2006

Mark Schwarzer is adamant Middlesbrough cannot afford to be dragged into a relegation fight.

The Teessiders head into tomorrow's Barclays Premiership clash with Wigan at the Riverside Stadium on the back of successive defeats by Manchester United and Tottenham, which mean they have taken just five points from the last 21 on offer.

That run of results has seen Gareth Southgate's side slip down the table to 16th place and, with strugglers Charlton and Sheffield United starting to make their move, that is a concern.

Boro dragged themselves back into both the United and Tottenham games only to concede again within minutes, just as they had done when leading at Aston Villa, and that has proved a costly failing which could have major repercussions if not addressed.

Goalkeeper Schwarzer said: 'All of a sudden, you lose one game and other teams below you win games and it is so tight, positions change so quickly.

'All of a sudden, you become the team that is under a lot of pressure again, or the manager comes under pressure.

'It is important to get away and stay clear of that bottom part of the table.

'We cannot afford to get relegated - and we are not even thinking about that. What we are thinking about is working our way up the table and being in the top half as the minimum because we believe that is where we should be.'

Victory over Wigan is a must if Boro are to ease themselves away from the drop zone.

They have been boosted by the availability of skipper George Boateng, who yesterday had his claim for wrongful dismissal at White Hart Lane upheld by the Football Association.

However, fellow midfield enforcer Lee Cattermole is banned after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against United.

In any case, Southgate will be looking for a different result to the one his side got from the corresponding fixture last season.

Goals from Jason Roberts and David Thompson saw the visitors race into a 2-0 lead before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Aiyegbeni Yakubu levelled, only for Neil Mellor to win it at the death.

Defensive resilience will be key to Boro's chances of reviving their season but, while England international Jonathan Woodgate and £6million signing Robert Huth have been drafted in to that end, it is Austrian Emanuel Pogatetz who has shone in recent weeks.

Schwarzer said: 'What he has done is curb his aggression on the pitch as well.

'He has been able to keep that under control at times and that has made a big difference for him without losing the aggression in his play.

'He is a great lad and he is full of energy. You just have to watch how much he eats to understand where all his energy comes from.

'He is built like a brick wall. He is a good lad and I am pleased for him - he is doing really well.'