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As days at the office go, that was a bad one. Apart from the political events, Sunderland went down the A19 and never really got going, losing out to a single smoggie strike. As expected, Mowbray named the same starting eleven as the previous game, but a warm-up injury to the main man, Stewart, meant a place on the pitch for former boro boy Roberts.

As it’s closer to home than the Sol there wasn’t much of an awayday feel, with pre-match cocktails being had in Spennymoor. I’ve nowt against Spennydorm, but it aint Lichfield...


Gooch Batth O’Nien Cirkin

Evans Neil Clarke


Roberts Simms

....and a bench of Bass, Matete, Alese, Wright, Dajaku, Amad, and Embleton.

In our blue away kit we tried to get a pattern of play going, but struggled to find any fluency, with Boro having the first sight of goal – thankfully, Batth was alert to the ball into the box and got in the way to save Patto getting his knees dirty. The ball was spending most of the time in the possession of the home side as we simply couldn’t string together any meaningful passages of play, Roberts as the Little to Simms’ Large was the way we tried to play it, but the Boro weren’t letting us feed them anything useful.

The atmosphere was good, with the home lot showing their appreciation for our boss’ years of loyalty to the Teesside cause, and our lot in full voice. Despite our vocal backing, we couldn’t get at the home goal and although the Boro had been the better side, we managed to create the best chance when Simms and Roberts combined to set Pritch up – but no goal was forthcoming. We forced three corners in quick succession, but couldn’t convert any of them, and soon after that, we could have been behind when Patto could only scoop a free-kick away only for McGree to mess up the loose ball.

He didn’t mess up on 25 minutes, though, when Giles set him away and he ticked it under Patto for 1-0. Damn. We continued in the high intensity but ineffective style as we tried to get back into the game, but it was Boro who almost grabbed the game’s second goal when the pesky McGree took a return pass but missed the target. McNair (used to be canny) took our Pritch with a fairly industrial challenge and was rightly booked, but Pritch decided to exact his own revenge in full view of the ref, and got himself a yellow. Silly boy.

The rest of the half played out very much in Boro’s favour as we were a bit loose in possession and on the back foot when out of it – although we did scream long and loud for a penalty in added time. No VAR for us, unfortunately.

We made no changes for the second half, which started (perhaps understandably) at a more sensible pace than the first. After Patto saved an awkward header by Muniz, we started to build things better going forward, but our final ball let us down, leaving Simms and Roberts frustrated. Twenty minutes into the half, Mowbray replaced Roberts and Pritch with Embo and debutant Amad, but despite our change in style, the chances still didn’t come.

Boro went for the inevitable “former player” effect, bringing on Watmore, and he was straight into the thick of things, having a poked effort saved by Patto. With fifteen to go, a worrying injury to Cirkin saw him leave the field, replaced by Wright at the same time as Gooch was replaced by Dajaku – going for broke down the right. The closest we got, however, was a free kick from Embo that needed a good save by Roberts in the home goal, and he also dealt with the resulting corner.

Our efforts at a comeback fizzled out despite the obvious passion on the pitch – perhaps we were trying too hard, if that’s possible? Seven whole minutes of added time were announced, with the traveling fans greeting them with renewed vigour, roaring the Lads on to an equaliser – which never came. We might bemoan the absence of Stewart, but I doubt even he could have made much of the scraps we fed our front two on an evening when we just didn’t join up our play often enough.

Bad day at the office. Man of the Match? Probably Batth, as he rose to the occasion and kept the home forwards at bay. Most of the time.