Middlesbrough 1-2 West Ham United
Scott Parker's last-minute winner at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday helped West Ham United come from behind for victory and make it another away day to remember.
On an afternoon when Dean Ashton's fifth goal of the campaign had earlier wiped out David Wheater's opener to send himself into Christmas at the top of the West Ham United scoring charts, the marauding midfielder could not have chosen a better moment to score his first goal for the club. With the match, played in freezing conditions, looking destined for a draw - Parker surged forward and picked his spot with aplomb.
Alan Curbishley's eleventh-placed side had arrived in the north-east having taken just one point away from their hosts on all nine previous visits to the Riverside Stadium. Following last week's back-to-back reverses against Everton, the Boleyn Ground boss had made two enforced changes as striker Henri Camara came in for the suspended Carlton Cole, while Jonathan Spector replaced James Collins (groin) in central defence.
There were rare calls to the bench, too, for elder statesman Christian Dailly and youngster Hogan Ephraim alongside Mark Noble, John Pantsil and Richard Wright. A three-goal defeat at the Boleyn Ground in mid-September signalled the start of an eleven-match winless run for Gareth Southgate's side, but back-to-back victories over Arsenal and Derby County had boosted confidence.
With his side sitting in 14th, the Middlesbrough manager also made two changes from last Saturday's win at Pride Park, as Julio Arca and Adam Johnson switched with Fabio Rochemback and Gary O'Neil. The hosts certainly enjoyed the better of the early exchanges.
Former West Ham United loanee Jeremie Aliadiere had a 12-yarder charged down, before the pacy Stewart Downing deposited a wayward long-ranger into the sparsely-populated seats behind Robert Green's goal. In reply, Spector rose highest to meet Nolberto Solano's inswinging free-kick but his header was deflected over and, with the Peruvian playmaker and Freddie Ljungberg looking lively, Schwarzer was forced to race off his goal-line to tackle Camara.
With the half-hour mark approaching, Ashton almost turned provider when he nodded the ball to Ljungberg but the Swede's clever scissor-volley was tipped aside by the home keeper, who then saw Hayden Mullins send a rising 20-yarder over his crossbar. A goal was coming but it was to be at the other end. Downing floated a deep free-kick towards the far post, where Aliadiere nodded back for the unmarked Wheater to fire in.
The locals' joy did not last long and West Ham United levelled in spectacular style. The ever-present George McCartney found Camara, whose frustration at seeing the ball bobble off his studs was quickly forgotten. The assured Ashton picked up the pieces with a low 18-yarder that scorched across the freezing Teesside turf and beyond the outstretched right-glove of the well-beaten Schwarzer, whose net was almost ripped off its hooks.
Just after the break, Solano almost raised the temperature yet further with a curling 25-yard free-kick that Schwarzer clawed from under his right-hand angle. Solano went close again soon after as West Ham United enjoyed the better moments of a second half in which Noble and Pantsil came on for the tiring Solano and Camara, while Robert Huth and Lee Cattermole stepped from the bench to replace Jonathan Woodgate and Adam Johnson.
Just when it looked like the deadlock would never be broken, the determined Parker collected from Lucas Neill and embarked on one final, tenacious run into the Boro box. After holding off the attention of his markers, he curled a 12-yarder beyond the despairing dive of Schwarzer and into the far corner to give West Ham United their fifth away win in nine league games this season.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Young, Woodgate (Huth 62), Wheater, Pogatetz, Johnson (Cattermole 76), Boateng (c), Arca, Downing, Tuncay, Aliadiere
Subs not used: Shawky, Turnbull, Lee
West Ham United: Green, Neill (c), Upson, Spector, McCartney, Solano (Noble 75), Mullins, Parker, Ljungberg, Camara (Pantsil 84), Ashton
Subs not used: Wright, Dailly, Ephraim