Belfast Telegraph

'Devastated' Agnew targets defiant finish

Despondent Middlesbrough head coach Steve Agnew hopes to finish the season on a high after relegation from the Premier League was confirmed with a 3-0 loss at Chelsea.

Boro needed a win to have any hope of avoiding the drop, but were outplayed by the champions-elect to fall into the Sky Bet Championship.

It was a record-equalling fourth demotion from the Premier League for Boro, who next play Southampton at the Riverside.

Agnew said: "Everybody's devastated. We've worked so hard for a number of years to get back into the Premier League and we know how tough the Premier League is.

"We've pulled up short. I've left a very silent dressing room. Everybody, staff and players, are absolutely gutted.

"The bottom line is we haven't won enough games and haven't scored enough goals.

"The task now is to put a performance on for the supporters on Saturday."

Boro's visiting supporters were applauded by Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte afterwards and Agnew believes the fans deserve Premier League football again.

He added: "It's a Premier League football club in terms of everything about it. The supporters, the stadium, the training ground, the infrastructure is all there.

"The most important thing is we finish the season strong, we make sure we gain more points and then everything moving forward will be towards getting members of the football club back into the Premier League as soon as possible."

The visitors' night began with a bump. A minor nudge in rush-hour traffic contributed to the delayed arrival of the Boro bus.

Agnew declined to comment on the matter.

He added: "Tonight has been very, very emotional and disappointing for everybody a nd the last thing in my mind was whether there's been any contact on the bus on the way to Stamford Bridge.

"The disappointment tonight is losing the game. First half, our defending for the first two goals was disappointing. Going into half-time that gives us a mountain to climb."

Boro defender Ben Gibson described the demotion as "the lowest point of my life".

He told Sky Sports: "It's not just tonight, it's a full season. From top to bottom we haven't been good enough. Players, staff, myself.

"They were much better in every department. It could have been 4-0, 5-0, 6-0. It was the lowest point of my career. We've got to put it right.

"In fact it's the lowest point of my life, not just my career. It means that much.

"We have to reflect on what's gone wrong."

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