STEWART Downing shrugged off the joy of netting his first goal of the season to insist it doesn’t matter who sticks them in, so long as Middlesbrough get a result.
Downing scored 10 last term to finish as Boro’s top scorer but his first-half header in the 1-1 draw at West Ham was his first goal of the current campaign.
The visitors could not hold on and Herita Ilunga headed Gianfranco Zola’s side level just seven minutes from time, setting up a replay – with the winners away to Everton in the last eight. After ending his personal drought, Downing declared: “It was nice to score but I’m not really fussed who gets the goals. It never really concerned me personally that I hadn’t scored. I don’t care who gets them so long as someone does and the team get something. It wasn’t something I worried about.
“I have been playing a different role most of this season, playing a bit deeper and maybe defending a bit more, so I haven’t been getting the opportunities I did last year.”
But Downing has looked more dangerous in recent weeks. At Upton Park, he switched from his accustomed left-wing role into an advanced central midfield slot behind striker Afonso Alves that allowed him to run at West Ham from deep to great effect, a job he has done with increasing confidence in recent weeks.
“I enjoy playing in the middle,” he admitted.
“I can get on the ball a bit more and try to create things.
“That’s my job. I have played there a few times now.
“I really enjoyed it there against Sunderland a few weeks ago and have slotted in there a few times since.” And Downing believes that adding that new dimension can boost his England prospects and win over Fabio Capello.
“It helps to have more strings to you bow,” he said.
FA CUP QUARTER-FINAL DRAW
Blackburn or Coventry v Chelsea
Swansea or Fulham v Manchester United
Cardiff/Arsenal or Burnley v Sheffield United or Hull
Everton v West Ham or Middlesbrough
Ties to be played on the weekend of March 7-8.