Southgate salutes players after FA Cup scare

February 14, 2007

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate saluted the courage of his players after seeing them survive a major FA Cup scare at the hands of Bristol City.

The Premiership side needed a penalty shoot-out to dispose of their League One opponents on a dramatic night at the Riverside Stadium.

Keeper Mark Schwarzer, whose penalty save against Manchester City's Robbie Fowler earned Boro their first ever European qualification via the league three seasons ago, was the hero as he kept out efforts from Phil Jevons and Craig Woodman before substitute Adam Johnson booked his side a fifth-round clash with Tony Mowbray's West Brom.

Southgate, who famously missed for England in the Euro '96 penalty shoot-out against Germany, was delighted to get through a tricky fourth-round replay after seeing leading scorer Ayegbeni Yakubu fail from the spot both in extra-time and a second time in the tense finale.

He said: 'We showed great technique and great bottle to win it on the penalties.

'The irony is that Yakubu missed the one in normal time which might have put it beyond doubt and he would be the one you would put your money on to bury them.

'I just said to them at the end, `I am very pleased you are better at them than I am', which for some reason they thought was amusing.

'It was easy for me because, as I know to my cost, it is much harder to stand out there and take them than it is to stand and watch other people suffer.

'My feeling was we should have had it wrapped up before then and if we did not go through in the shoot-out, we would have to give Bristol City enormous credit.

'Of course, I am delighted we got through. It is a little bit in the lap of the gods when it goes to penalties, but I knew we had the players to step up to the mark.'

Boro trailed at the break after David Noble had fired the visitors into a shock 23rd-minute lead, but the introduction of Mark Viduka at half-time changed the game.

The Australian levelled from close-range on 69 minutes, but the Teessiders could not win it in normal time despite a late onslaught which saw them twice hit the woodwork.

Yakubu wasted a 96th-minute spot-kick but looked to have won it six minutes later, only for defender Jamie McCombe, who had conceded the penalty, to take it to the wire.

City boss Gary Johnson left justifiably proud of his players, but sharing their disappointment after falling just short of a big upset.

He said: 'I was very proud of the performance. We had to push them and push them all the way to the line.

'But this group of lads never knows when to give up. They keep proving they can come back in adversity. I was more proud that we tried to play. We found ourselves a goal up, but Middlesbrough have some world-class players and we had to respect that.

'But we stood toe-to-toe with them for 120 minutes. We are a group of winners as well, so of course we are disappointed.

'But I had made a pact with myself when it went to penalties, I was going to be their best friend. You want to hug and cuddle every one of them, but they were a bit sweaty and I had a new suit on. I am very proud.'