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Feb 26, 2009

Southgate wants Boro to transfer cup form

Gareth Southgate has called on his Middlesbrough players to take their FA Cup form into the battle for Premier League survival as they set their sights on Wembley.

On Wednesday night, goals from Stewart Downing and Tuncay Sanli secured a 2-0 win over West Ham United to ease the Teessiders into the FA Cup quarter-finals for the fourth successive season and end Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola's dreams of winning the competition at the first attempt as a manager.

But Boro must now put their last-eight clash with Everton to one side as they prepare for Saturday's vital league meeting with Liverpool looking for a first three-point haul in 15 attempts.

Southgate, whose side currently sit in 19th place in the table, said: ''It gives everybody renewed optimism. In terms of the season, it keeps people's dreams alive.

''Football is about dreams and that's why we have always wanted to take the cup competitions seriously. There's no priority for us. We feel we need to get into the habit of scoring and the habit of winning, and hopefully that can follow into the league programme for us.''

Downing's expertly-executed fifth-minute free-kick gave Boro the perfect start, and when Tuncay rifled home a volley 15 minutes later, Boro were firmly in the driving seat.

Indeed, they could have wrapped up the victory long before the final whistle with Tuncay and Jeremie Aliadiere going close.

Scott Parker came within inches of pulling one back for the visitors after 60 minutes, but in truth, Southgate's men never looked in any danger of surrendering their advantage.

The former England defender added: ''We know if we get our good players playing well, we have got the quality to do it.

''They need to know that, they need to believe that and it's very difficult to keep standing up in front of the group of players and keep trying to be positive with them when they are not getting results.

''They need to see a bit of evidence, and they are starting to see that.''

Zola admitted Downing's superb opener had knocked the stuffing out of his side.

He said: ''You prepare everything properly and then you have a player that puts the ball in the top corner. Maybe the second goal, we have something to talk about.

''It was very important we scored straight away after half-time. We didn't manage to do that, so it made it difficult. In situations like that, the confidence for the other team increases and ours goes down, and that was the case.

''I'm very disappointed for our fans because they came up here with a big crowd and we wanted to give them something more.''

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