FANTASTIC entertainment. Not the most polished performance granted, but a great full-blooded scrap and the epitome of an old-fashioned FA Cup clash played in an electric hostile atmosphere with no quarter given. Tackles, blood and snot flying around – and teeth – and plenty to write into the annals of derby folklore – not least the presence of David Wheater in the midst of 3,000 Teessiders stood chanting for the full 90. I can’t wait for the replay.
Boro were excellent value for the draw and evn probably deserved to edge a win. With a few players out, a couple of inserted into unusual positions and a new look brave line-up with three up front they could easily have come unstuck but in fact they set the pace for long spells and were never over-awed by an in-form Premier League side.
With the physicality and aerial power of Jutkiewicz adding an extra element up front and McDonald and Emnes dropping deep and buzzing about behind him Boro had plenty going forward. They created a couple of decent chances as well as the goal. Juke had a few good opportinities to become an instant hero and open his account in a derby, not least before his double effort on the stroke of half-time, and he gave the two former Man United centre backs (and Turner when he came on too) a torrid time. That bodes well..
Boro had the edge in midfield with Robson omnipotent in a textbook display of box-to-box battling, Sadly with Lee Cattermole pulling out with injury we were denied the krakatoan explosion between the pair that harnessed could solve the Western world’s looming energy crisis. Williams slotted in neatly into the engine room and playing some deft stuff and Faris Haroun – awful in his past few outings – was magnificent in a display of perpetual motion on the right. Boro never let them settle.
At the back there were spells of uncertainty and the odd wobble but with Seb Hines in the middle (further nudging Steve McManus towards the exit door?) and Justin Hoyte in the unaccustomed left back slot (thus giving Joe Bennett a timely rocket up his pants?) it was always going to be a bit clunky. It worked. Just about. There were a couple of jitters and scrambles and twice in the first half Coyne had to make good saves from James McClean but the expected long spells of pressure didn’t materialise.
Sunderland’s goal was against the run of play – in fact it was from a corner cock up when Boro opted for an over elaborate short set-play (possibly based on the Burnley one that caught us cold a few weeks ago?) when they had a centre-back off the pitch and it should have been thrown in the mixer.
It was poorly executed and Emnes weak toe poke into the box was easily pumped clear then Barry Robson’s square ball when he tried to tidy up – and should have row zedded – was a disaster. His underhit pass back towards Hoyte was easily cut out and set Sunderland surging forward for their leveller. No wonder he threw the Man of the Match champagne in the bin in protest and self-disgust.
Sunderland did have some good spells and will no doubt moan about the “goal” that was ruled out for offside but could easily have been equally disallowed for handball. Take your pick, it wasn’t a goal. In the first 20 minutes of so Sessignon was a livewire and there were some hairy moments. Then late on McClean had a sizzling spell and looked their liveliest player but, again, they rarely did enough to force their way through.
Boro defendied bravely – Wiliams got a nut in the mouth and looked to have lost a tooth – and in numbers. They threw their bodies in the way, battled and generally coped well.
The Sunderland press pack were keen to point out that they had had an off day. Equally you could say that they were reverting to type and the poor side assembled by Steve Bruce was shining through the veneer of the Martin O’Neill revival. Whatever, credit has to go for Boro who forced them out of their stride with a spirited and enterprising display.
Now we have a couple of big league games coming up before the replay and have to take the same attitude and approach into those. The cup diversion has allowed the league table to squeeze up a bit and Reading have nudged ahead on goal difference and Hull are just behind by the same criteria. We need to quickly shrug off the three game Black January blip now and get something at Leicester.
Let’s make sure that “not a derby” energy can galvanise the season and get the Mogganaut rolling again in the Championship.