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Sunderland AFC v middlesbrough (away)...

Will the fightback start here? We’re rock bottom now but if we manage to get a win today, we’d be out of the bottom three. I can’t see that happening unfortunately as unlike us Boro have won six games so far while we’re winless in thirteen games. At least McNair will probably start and that might give us some much-needed oomph. Of course it’s common for a new gaffer to give a poor side a shot in the arm and that would be a great thing but our defenders need to to remember the basics of defence before we can get a result. At the other end things are a lot better and we’ve managed as many goals as Boro so far with Grabban showing that he’s a real poacher, on the ground at any rate. I’ll be off in a minute to watch the game at my favourite bar though I may be outnumbered by Spurs fans watching the other telly. Match prediction: 2-1 to Boro.

I got to the bar, just off Oxford Street, at noon and they opened it half an hour early just for me. Catts and Gibson were starting in midfield while Ruiter kept his place. Two of our old boys, Downing and Leadbitter were starting for them and I wished they’d been in our side. Anyway, I had the bar to myself as the game started There was no sound on the TV so I had the texts as a back-up but they were about a minute out of synch which was likely to prove interesting. We had a great chance to go ahead in the third minute when a low Ndong shot was blocked by Randolph in goal and fell straight to Grabban. He had the whole goal to aim at but Randolph’s outstretched leg blocked his effort and it went for a corner. Boro showed us how to do it a few minutes later and it was poor defending again which cost us it. A low Braithwaite cross from the right was turned in at the near post by Tavernier as Jones, I think, let him get to the ball first. Catts actually got a good shot on target and Jones nodded a header goalwards but Randolph was up to both of them and would clearly take some beating. Jones was yellow-carded for a dodgy tackle and he must have quite a collection by now but next thing he was down injured for a while after colliding with Gibson and was eventually replaced by Matthews. As the half-hour mark came and went we’d had a bit more than half of the possession as well as three good chances but Boro had taken that crucial chance. We started to put a decent amount of pressure on and Matthews was putting in some nifty runs down the right. McGeady had a good shot from just outside the box that went narrowly over. If only we could manage a narrowly under, then we might be getting somewhere. Catts was booked as half-time approached so he’d have to go steady, if that was at all possible.
It remained 1-0 at the break and things weren’t looking too bad, yet.

A few minutes into the second-half another good Matthews run won us a corner but McGeady’s kick failed to beat the first man. Ndong hurt himself when he fell and was replaced by Honeyman and then it looked like Braithwaite had put them two-up but Ruiter made a great double save with his feet and his hands to keep hope alive. Boro were piling the pressure on and things weren’t helped when McGeady conceded a free-kick in a dangerous spot, earning a yellow card in the process. There were fouls and free-kicks a plenty for both sides and with twenty-five minutes on the clock I felt either side could grab a goal. With a quarter of an hour to go the TV jumped a bit and suddenly we were conceding something on the edge of our box for which Wilson was booked. I thought it was a penna but it turned out to be a free-kick. Ruiter dived low to keep it out and he’s earned his place in my view. Williams came on for McNair in time to conjure up a bit of magic and I would have been happy to get a draw. It was going end to end in the closing stages with both sides creating goal chances. There were four minutes of stoppage-time and we plugged away but Boro defended solidly and it ended 1-0.

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