Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill's Stoke blow chance to boost survival bid

Middlesbrough 2 Stoke City 1

Big win: Stoke’s Lee Gregory (left) and Boro’s Northern Ireland ace George Saville at the end of last night’s relegation battle
Big win: Stoke’s Lee Gregory (left) and Boro’s Northern Ireland ace George Saville at the end of last night’s relegation battle

By Steven Beacom

Middlesbrough moved six points clear of the relegation zone in the Sky Bet Championship as second-half goals from Ashley Fletcher and Lewis Wing secured a 2-1 win over Stoke.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill's side remain rooted in the bottom three despite having claimed the lead when Sam Clucas slotted home.

Fletcher equalised four minutes after the Potters' opener and Wing fired home an excellent long-range winner with 19 minutes left.

The visitors broke the deadlock eight minutes after the break. Lee Gregory broke down the right after Dael Fry allowed a long ball to sail over his head, and the forward delivered a low ball into the area. Pears produced a superb point-blank save to keep out James McClean's initial strike, but the Middlesbrough goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Clucas slotting home the rebound.

Four minutes later Fletcher scored with a neat diving header.

Marcus Tavernier released Wing into Stoke's final third and with his opponents backing off, the midfielder drilled a clinical low shot into the net.

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