The Boro Soapbox: Sess sees off the Smoggies

“Disaster is around the corner, it is,” says Martin O’Neill, tongue in cheek maybe (or maybe not). “It’s lurking. But that’s probably why I’m a Sunderland fan, absolutely, I couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate club.” At the Riverside, we delayed the nasty change in fortunes, setting up a second home game with Arsenal, dangerous but beatable. Pete Sixsmith looks at the 2-1 win at Boro and praises lively opponents as well as our own quietly effective team …

Thank goodness that our Benin International star rattled the winning goal in and ensured that this rousing game did not go to penalties, something which the home team had been playing for throughout the game. I don’t like penalty shoot outs and bitter experience (Wembley 1999, Shildon at Ashington in this years FA Cup) suggests that I am definitely not a beneficiary of the 12 yard finish.

That it almost went to penners is a testimony to Middlesbrough’s tenacity rather than a criticism of our performance. They worked extremely hard, but, at the end of the day, lacked that wee bit of class needed to undo an efficient and effective Premier League side.

It was almost the same team as Saturday, with Campbell in for Meyler, which meant that we played a 4-4-1-1 formation with Sessegnon playing in front of the midfield four and behind Campbell. The plan was to use Sessegnon’s trickery allied with Campbell’s pace and push Boro back.

To do that, we needed to do what we did not do at The SOL and get hold of the midfield early on. This we did, and Colback in particular was dominant. He rarely misdirected a ball and won a succession of tackles as we tried to pass our way through and round Boro’s well organised two lines of four.

Gardner also started well and as the game progressed he succeeded Colback as the dominant figure in the central areas. He pushed forward and defended well and really looked as if he was a £5m player. Perhaps we could build a replica of the Bull Ring in Sunderland and ship in Mitchell and Butlers Brew XI in order to alleviate his home sickness.

Colback took his goal brilliantly after sparkling work by Campbell and I thought that we had edged the first half, although Mignolet had made a fine save and Bardsley popped up on the line to clear a McMahon shot just after we had scored.

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop

The second half saw the home team wrest control and equalise when Jutkiewicz took advantage of a poor headed clearance from O’Shea and the inability of Turner to get off the ground, to fire home a good goal. It inspired Boro to move forward and put our defence under pressure. We handled it well enough and most of the home teams efforts were long range efforts.

In the meantime, Bardsley (who had an excellent game) hit the post and forced Steele into an outstanding save and then Gardner sent in a swerving shot which Steele pushed round the post. Add to that Larsson narrowly missing a tempting cross from McClean and we had plenty of chances to win it in 90 minutes.

Extra time could have gone either way. Boro had used their subs long before Wickham came on for Campbell and it would be wrong to say that he had a great impact on the game. However, he did manage to get his feet tangled up in the Boro box and the ball broke to Sess, who planted his shot into the net, prompting wild celebrations amongst the 4,000 travelling fans. The man behind, who had carped on all game, grabbed me by the neck and then fell over three rows of seats. Idiot!!

It wasn’t a great performance, but it was a gutsy one and we ran out winners, so what more do we want? The players dug deep after a difficult game at The Municipal Incinerator Stadium and came through to the fifth round for what seems the first time this century.

Middlesbrough did well and I imagine played above the level they have performed at in their recent Championship games. They were organised, kept their two lines of four really tight and showed some good touches.

Matthew Bates looked the pick of their Academy graduates, captaining the side most effectively and reading the game very well. Joe Bennett looks a good one as well, but he is small, while in midfield they were functional rather than impressive.

Some of our fans were less than impressive, including the four to my left, who rolled in half an hour late, full of alcohol. They had travelled on the 17.50 train that had been trashed at Hartlepool and if they were anything to go by, it must have been an awful journey. Why people see the need to get as tanked up as this before watching a game is beyond me.

Despite that, a satisfying night and it means that we can welcome the Gunners on successive Saturdays. Three points and a Sixth Round place would be rather nice.

* See the Arsenal “Who are You?” – Clemency Burton-Hill, TV and radio presenter, author, musician, journalist, actress and committed Gooner – by clicking anywhere on this paragraph.

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11 thoughts on “The Boro Soapbox: Sess sees off the Smoggies”

  1. Salut!!!
    What a self – elected pontificating, opinionated, egotistical gob-hite!!
    (Many more adjectives I could use)

  2. Can anyone explain what Turners role was in this game, having watched MON consistently set up his teams to get behind the ball and strike like a cobra when we regain possession. We had Turner getting into the box and often in the way when ever possible this had the affect of confusing Campbell and making him ineffective. This caused Turner to be often out of position and I believe the main cause of their goal he was too tired to jump. Still a win is a win

  3. Yes lets give the referee full marks,a rare event.Never noticed him till late in the game and only and a ref not noticed is a good one.Tackles were often bookable but the palyers did not make much fuss and contributed to an excellent game….in stark contrast to the Stoke game.

    Very happy with yet another win.Nice habit to be in.Only negative for me is O’ Shea.He cannot seem win a header cleanly and was at fault for errors which led to both the goals over two games.His distribution is also basic route one and out of sorts with the rest of the teams style.Granted his floated pass picked out Sess to lay on the fist goal(well done Colback),but is just a numbers game,as for every completed pass he must waste 6 or 7 incompletes.

    Oh forgot,one other negative….why is anyone other than Larsson taking corners/free kicks?It just crazy,or does he get tired out kicking the ball?

  4. Tony: Pete wrote

    “Wickham came on for Campbell and it would be wrong to say that he had a great impact on the game. However, he did manage to get his feet tangled up in the Boro box and the ball broke to Sess …”

    …which seems close to your own view

  5. Watching at home we agreed the ref had a good game. Let it go on when he could, stopped it only when he needed to.

    The commentator reckoned 9 of the Boro players (after substitutions) had come through the Academy so very impressive.

  6. Forgot to mention that the referee, Anthony Taylor, had an excellent game. He treated the game properly and kept his cards in his pocket. One or two others might want to take note!!

    • Quite right. I mentioned Anthony Taylor’s exemplary refereeing several times during the match to anyone willing to listen. With commonsense and restraint like that, he’s, er, doomed.

    • Spot on sir.

      Indeed, the commentators remarked, on a few occasions, during the game, that certain challenges would have been certain bookings in the Premier League.

      IMHO, the game was far better for Mr Taylor keeping his cards in his pocket and the good spirit that it was played in was, in no small part, down to that.

      Other referees please take note!!

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