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Sunderland AFC v middlesbrough (a)...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

“Who needs Allardyce when we’ve got David Moyes?” was a chant that did the rounds a few times while we were winning 4-0 against Palace but it sounds just a bit embarrassing now. If only we’d got Sam back in January... Still, it’s too late now and all we have to play for realistically is to avoid being bottom and make sure Boro take that honour. Having got a couple of goals at last against West Ham, hopefully we’ll manage one or two more this evening. Boro seem to be imploding more than us so I think we may well win but such is our goal difference that we still wouldn’t overtake them even if we do. Seb is still suspended and Jones will probably play but I don’t know any other news at this early hour. Leadbitter may well return for them and we all know he can hit them. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

When I got the team-news at 7.15 Khazri was starting, as he had to be, while Borini was on the bench. I was prepared to settle for another goal in the ninetieth minute from him. I’ve been very disappointed with Kone this season but I’d still rather have had him on than Denayer. One of the faithful had tipped me off that Radio Newcastle were broadcasting our games again (thanks for that, mate) so with Sportsmania having given up the ghost on my laptop, I was obliged to tune in and await developments. I felt a bit of excitement, I have to say, maybe because of the derby atmosphere. To us older fans this fixture was always a derby. In addition there was of course the dog-eat-dog nature of the game.

There was loud applause for Ugo Ehiogu before the match kicked off and the atmosphere sounded great and then…..the broadcast was blocked. I tried to get SAFSEE on but for some reason it always takes an eternity these days, if it comes on at all. Tonight was no different so as I waited to see if it would come to life I tuned into Five Live and heard that we’d won a couple of early corners and that it had been frantic. Frantic sounded okay to me. Next thing news came through that Boro had taken the lead through de Roon in their first attack in the ninth minute. I gave up on SAFSEE and was forced to rely on BBC Sports live texts and reports on Five Live but as both of these sources weren’t saying a lot I was pretty much in the dark. The news that we could even be relegated this weekend didn’t feel too bad really as it would put paid to any insane lingering hopes of salvation. The scraps of news that did come through said nothing about us making any attacks and the action only seemed to be at the other end with Downing causing problems. To add insult to injury Five Live were broadcasting the Palace v Spurs match and Palace were putting up a good show in the opening stages. Friend was the first player to be yellow-carded after a bad foul just before the half-hour mark but O’Shea wasn’t long in joining him. As half-time approached things brightened slightly with Defoe getting ruled offside when Catts put him through and then Ndong forcing a save out of Guzan with a long-distance shot. Gibson managed to get booked during stoppage-time and at the break Five Live said Boro, who hadn’t won since December, had been the better team and our defending had been all over the place for their goal. I wondered at what point Borini would come on.

We won a free-kick straight after kicking off again and Khazri’s shot forced Guzan into another save. Six minutes into the half I managed to get a good stream online just in time to see Big Vic’s lame penalty appeal being ignored. Apparently we haven’t got a headed goal all season but why am I surprised? Catts tried a shot that was about to go for a throw-in till Khazri managed to put it out for a goal-kick. All the play was in the Boro half at any rate though our shooting was very bad. Our fans were in good voice and there was still only a goal in it so maybe we could pull a result out of the hat. Vic was doing well against Fabio down the left and an opening looked promising via that route. Borini replaced Gibson in the sixty-fifth minute and that had to be a change for the better. We were certainly putting plenty of effort in but our final passes, as so often, were poor. Gestede replaced Negredo, who didn’t look too chuffed about it, and he’s gone forty-three matches without being on the winning side. Well, we had about fifteen minutes to get two goals and make it forty-four. Our chances of doing so, however, took a mighty blow when we promptly replaced Khazri with Januzaj. As we entered the final ten minutes we’d lost our earlier momentum and Boro were having at least as much of the attacking play as us and we weren’t putting any real pressure on Guzan. We made our last switch with Rodwell replacing Catts. The commentator said, “You get the feeling that Sunderland could play and play and play and never score tonight.” I know that feeling. Four minutes of stoppage-time were announced but we produced nothing and so Boro completed their double over us to top up our cup of woe. 

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