No European trips but Hammers have a glow

West Ham 2 Middlesbrough 1 WEST HAM gave their fans something to remember when they are on the beach this summer with a final day victory over beleaguered Boro on Sunday. And though the exchange rates mean their holiday destinations are more likely to

West Ham 2 Middlesbrough 1

WEST HAM gave their fans something to remember when they are on the beach this summer with a final day victory over beleaguered Boro on Sunday.

And though the exchange rates mean their holiday destinations are more likely to be in England rather than Spain, France or Italy, they are still likely to have a warm glow.

Two years ago it was the Hammers battling for their lives on the final day of the season. That day, Alan Curbishley's team had to win at Old Trafford to save themselves and they put in the sort of performance that made every West Ham fan proud.


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On Sunday, Middlesbrough crashed out of the Premier League with a whimper as a West Ham team, missing key players and far from their best, were simply too good for Gareth Southgate's toothless side.

"I was delighted with the win," said manager Gianfranco Zola afterwards. "It was important to conclude the season with a nice result in front of our own supporters.

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"I am sorry obviously for the other team who have been relegated today, but for us it was important - a perfect way to finish a season that has been very good for us."

Don't be too sorry for Middles-brough, they were simply not good enough to stay in the top flight. They passed the ball well enough, but they had as much credibility as an MPs expenses claim.

They had plenty of the ball early on, but it was West Ham who always looked the more likely to score.

The returning Carlton Cole set up Radoslav Kovac for a 20-yarder that was drilled straight at Brad Jones in the Middlesbrough goal, before Junior Stanislas let fly from the same distance only to see his effort deflect off Robert Huth and crash into the woodwork.

Cole set up Stanislas for another chance on 27 minutes which the youngster fired badly wide, but West Ham's England striker took on the responsibility himself on 33 minutes to give the home side the lead.

Luis Boa Morte's superb pass put Herita Ilunga away on the left edge of the box and when he pulled the ball back, it fell invitingly for Cole to bisect two defenders with a low shot into the far corner.

It was Cole's 12th goal of the season and Zola was quick to highlight just how much they have missed him during the run-in.

"Carlton came back and scored again," said the boss. "He has been very good for us and had made a difference at this moment in the season; it was just a pity that we couldn't have him in the crucial moments."

Cole returned to the starting line-up in a surprising formation which saw him up front on his own while David Di Michele and Diego Tristan languished on the bench.

It is a system that suits Cole's play, and one that Zola incorporated when he first arrived at Upton Park, but against relegation-haunted Boro, it see-med like a strangely defensive formation.

Zola though, did not agree: "I just wanted to play differently. Boa Morte and Stanislas were supposed to join in and help Cole a little more, but we didn't do that in the first 20 minutes," he explained.

"In the end we came out well. Some-times aga-inst teams like Middlesbrough, you have to change things a little bit."

Boro attempted to hit back with Matthew Bates heading over Adam Johnson's corner, and then five minutes into the second half they actually managed to level.

Tuncay weaved past the slipping Lucas Neill and teed up the impressive Gary O'Neil who drilled a shot past Robert Green and into the corner of the net.

This was Boro's big chance, but after Bates had fired over from 25 yards it was West Ham who got their noses back in front thanks to the charity of the visiting keeper.

Jack Coll-ison cut inside and fed Stanislas and this time the young winger's shot was sweet and low as Jones could only fumble disastrously into his own net.

Before the goal, Kieron Dyer made yet another comeback on 54 minutes, replacing the limping Mark Noble, and it took him just eight minutes to show his true potential.

Boa Morte won the ball and fed Cole and the striker cleverly squared it into Dyer's path, but with just the keeper to beat his first touch let him down.

He repeated the trick minutes later when he couldn't quite latch on to Collison's pass, while a magnificent turn gave him another chance, only for his shot to be blocked.

David Wheater headed over and substitute Joe Bennett fired high and wide and that was as much as a Boro side fighting for survival had to offer.

At the other end, Stanislas' free kick was cleared as far as Collison who fired inches over the top, while Stanislas himself stormed forward and hit a shot that Jones grabbed at the second attempt.

Neill's fine run and attempted chip missed the target by a whisker, while the biggest excitement came when Boa Morte cut in from the left and fired a shot goalwards that was superbly saved by the keeper.

It would have been a fitting end to the season if Boa Morte had scored the goal his recent form has so richly deserved, but you can't expect miracles.

For many West Ham fans, having Gianfranco Zola as their manager is miracle enough.

West Ham: Green, Spector, Ilunga, Neill, Upson, Kovac, Noble (Dyer 54), Boa Morte, Collison (Di Michele 72), Stanislas, Cole (Tristan 63). Unused subs: Lastuvka, Lopez, Savio, Payne.

Attendance: 34,007. Referee: Howard Webb.

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