Boro Serve Sunderland Cup of Woe
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 07 Jan 2018 10:47:00
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Boro saw off Sunderland in the early kick off 3rd Round FA Cup tie yesterday. Rivals Sunderland were never really in the contest after Rudy Gestede’s early goal. Martin Braithwaite made it 2 just before half time and Boro fans could relax in a second half knowing that we will be progressing into the 4th round again this year.

Although most fans would have felt inconvenienced by the early 1pm kick off it did of course mean that we got the job done early and could sit back through the rest of the ties and get back inside into the warm and out of the cold.

There were 5000 Sunderland fans making the relatively short hop down the coast. Unfortunately, roadworks for the new Middlehaven bridge don’t allow for easy segregation these days as everyone must use the one road from town, which is pretty overcrowded.

The 3rd Round is of course still a special weekend, we can't say Saturday anymore. It is a real oasis of hope in the daunting, cold wintry expanse of January.

Sunderland fans must have arrived more in hope than… well, actually they won’t have held out much hope either.  With an appalling home record, the only place they have any chance of seeing their team compete, let alone win is on the road.

Yet the last time we met in the league it could not have been tighter. If Lewis Grabban had not been thwarted by Darren Randolph early doors then it would have taken more than Marcus Tavernier’s flick to separate the teams.

This weekend it was the all-Welsh managerial head to head between Tony Pulis and Chris Coleman. Could Tony Pulis underline his credentials and show that the second half comeback at Preston was part of the Pulis plan and no flash in the pan?

It was no surprise to see Britt Assombalonga rested. The big striker looked a bit burned out over Christmas time. His replacement, big Rudy Gestede, was quite superb at Deepdale and would make a big difference again in this cup tie.

Adama Traore has been much criticised for a lack of assists and goals. In two games he now has two direct assists. Is this the Pulis influence, I wonder? He blasted through the Sunderland soft centre leaving them reeling, before releasing Gestede with an inch perfect pass. The big man sidestepped Jason Steele and passed for goal. It took an agonising time to cross the line, but cross it did. Boro 1-0 up and on a flyer.

Traore threatened to rip Sunderland up as he sped forward again and slalomed through the Sunderland middle. This time he set up Braithwaite wide left, Jason Steele produced a good save to keep the Dane from doubling our lead.

Boro were able to dictate play for most of the first half. There were plenty of opportunities for pot shots at goal. Downing’s was the pick of them his shot whistling just past the angle of post and cross bar.

The game was effectively over just before half time when Jason Steele failed to deal with a cross. Time seemed to stand still, or at least the Sunderland defence, as Martin Braithwaite was able to pick his spot and thread the rebound through the crowded box and into the net.

After the break, Boro were as comfortable as you can be sitting on a 2 goal lead. Sunderland did force corners but some of their passing was diabolical and really you always felt Boro could go up a gear if absolutely needed. Mind you Darren Randolph did produce one amazingly athletic reflex save, twisting in mid air to beat out a point-blank range effort.

Jason Steele got down well to thwart Traore at the near post as the winger eyed up a chance to finally break his duck for Boro. Rudy Gestede also was denied by the former Boro stopper’s finger tips as he drove an effort into the ground.

We were able to bring on crowd favourite Adam Clayton, to great applause and to give Adama Traore a standing ovation when subbed. Clayton even had an effort on goal as Sunderland’s challenge withered.

So, the Tees Wear cup derby honours were safely bagged by Boro. We are now in the 4th round draw and the team is starting to come together under Tony Pulis. Already it is looking like a far happier New Year for Boro fans.

FA Cup 3rd Round Middlesbrough 2-0 Sunderland – Gestede/Braithwaite


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