Pulis Desperate For Boro Win at Sunderland
By Robert Nichols
Friday 23 Feb 2018 15:44:00
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It is just possible that you have heard about the little contest this weekend; Boro take on Sunderland on Saturday, 3pm kick off. Chris Coleman maybe doesn’t think it is a derby match and Tony Pulis is keeping a diplomatic silence on the question but ask all the two and half thousand fans making the way north up the A19 on Saturday just how much this game matters. It means everything to every last one of us. Come on Boro do the treble over Sunderland and kick on towards the play offs.

Boro go into this game at the Stadium of Light off the back of a good home win over Sunderland’s fellow relegation strugglers, Hull City. What an amazing indictment of the way the two clubs have been run off the field that two of the three clubs relegated from the Premier League could crash down once again.

It puts into context our troubles and struggles this season and if we can get the 3 points tomorrow then we can start our assault on the play offs in earnest.

Sadly, though we will have to mount our challenge without centre forward Rudy Gestede. Tony Pulis revealed today that the centre forward fractured his ankle in the last action of the Hull City game and is ruled out for the season. Just when Rudy was threatening to really make his mark following a brace that but for a post could have been a hat trick. Pulis described it as a huge blow for team and player but a door has opened and an opportunity has to be grasped. Presumably by Bamford or Britt.

I spoke to Tony Pulis this afternoon and following his diplomatic silence on whether this game is a derby or not I left him in no doubts as to the feelings of the fans. He had earlier refused to answer questions about his opponent's fall from grace or be drawn on the local import of the game.

"Fly: As a Boro fan this is definitely a derby match, the argument is all from the Sunderland side. For us it is going to be a very special match, will the Boro players know all about that?

TP – I bl**dy hope so (laughs). I do. And I’ll be desperate to win, am sure the players do. Then you’ve got Grant as well who has played for Sunderland and going back to his old club and he will be hopefully spitting to get the result that we all need.

Fly: And in terms of the season this is a chance to start putting a run together, isn’t it?

TP: Yes, what is it 13 games to go? But we could lose then next 3 games and then win 8 out of 10 and get in the play offs. But everything is oh it’s the next game, the next game, the next game. And I understand it, that’s the way the world spins now. But there’s a bigger picture away from the smaller picture.

But the big thing is to go there and make sure we play the way we can play. And when we are passing the ball through the pitch quickly and we are getting people in certain areas then we are exciting.  We create really good opportunities and luckily we got 3 the other night and 3 good goals as well."

So, sadly no Gestede as the focal point of our attacks. But can Billy Jones handle Adama Traore? How will those home players and indeed their fans react if we put them under pressure and get our noses in front? Apart from Bristol City away Sunderland do not make a habit of comebacks, especially at home.

Can Boro make it a third win against our rivals this season? It would certainly be another desperate blow for a club that has just been put up for sale by owner Ellis Short. Free to the buyer, if you can settle the little matter of the debts, a truly stunning figure somewhere between £70 and £170 million, or thereabouts.

Grant will need to roll his sleeves up for a battle royal against Boro old boy, Lee Cattermole through the centre. There will be no quarter given there.You know they will both be fully up for the fight.

We might expect Pulis to look carefully at the fitness of several players after Tuesday, Mo Besic being someone that impressed but tired on the night as he did at Cardiff. Howson or even the warrior Clayton could come in and really pitch into the battle.

Stewart Downing has plenty of admirers still at the Stadium of Light, following the loan spell that first kick started his career. Can he be the player to unlock the defence and find the openings for Traore to exploit. Oh and by the way don’t completely discount the idea of Traore being given a forward role in the absence of Gestede, it is another possibility, maybe with Jack Harrison making his first start.

I am going for a 2-1 win. They are always close calls after all and Tony Pulis is likely to slam the door if we get our noses in front. Sunderland are up against it but never discount anything in a derby game. Hopefully Chris Coleman is telling the truth when he says it is not a derby because that might just take away that "formbook out of the window" scenario. I think he is too wily a customer for that.

Come on Boro – Beat Sunderland.



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