Injury Time Sickener at Sunderland
By Rob Nichols
Monday 26 Feb 2018 13:03:00
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It was the draw that felt like a defeat. The derby match that apparently wasn’t a derby. And so that is why two players were sent off, six goals scored and there were 8 minutes time added on in the first half and an equaliser in the seventh minute added at the end of the second. In other words not quite the average match. A whole season of incidents in one afternoon.

Boro fans were making their way north all Saturday morning by trains, coaches and automobiles. It was sunny but cold at the Stadium of Light with a good view of the action for our fans perched up way on high behind the goal we attacked first.

Before the action a word for Boro Travel Club stalwart Hughie who sadly missed his footing and had an alarming fall tumbling down the steps in the seating area. The medics were immediately on hand and spent a long time making him as comfortable as possible before stretchering him out of the arena. We wish him all the best.

In the absence of Rudy Gestede it was Britt Assombalonga handed the role of spearheading Boro’s attack. Ben Gibson was well again and ready to resume duties in defence and Grant Leadbitter was returning to the home of first club to lock horns with Lee Cattermole in the midfield battle. Mo Besic would impress throughout beside him.

Boro’s confidence was shaken when we failed to deal with a set-piece and Sunderland lashed the ball past Darren Randolph to take a shock lead. Poor defending, something we can’t let creep back into our play again. The worst of all possible starts.

Boro set about fighting back, working the ball quickly towards Traore who immediately got the better of his markers. The only way they could keep him back was to foul him. It must have been the third foul that was an assault just below the knee. The result a big mark high on his sock and a red card from the referee.

So, Boro were now a goal down but with a man advantage. That man Traore was beating Sunderland three defenders at a time and they just simply could not cope. The crowd tried to wind him up and soon the players did as well. Then came the incident where Traore saw red. It was a Boro corner. Some of our fans did see him raise his elbow but I don’t think anyone could make out Oviedo provoking him by poking him in the eye.

A second red card of the season for Traore, teams and opposition fans know that he is player capable of destroying them by fair means so they target him with fouls and foul means. It will be a costly blow for us. Right there I wondered if not only the match but also the play offs had slipped away.

Early on in the second period the match turned completely on its head. The ball was worked forward to Patrick Bamford with back to goal. There seemed nothing on but he turned and expertly finished into the corner of the net. Get in! 1-1.

We were still celebrating the equaliser when Britt Assombalonga was hauled down while passing Sunderland keeper, Lee Camp. Penalty. And this time no arguments about who would be taking the responsibility. Grant picked up the ball and calmly stepped away from the incident before placing it on the spot and planting in the back of the net. 2-1. The game turned upside down.

At this point Boro had opportunities to finish Sunderland off but you would also have backed us to hold onto the lead. Sunderland don’t come back at home we are told, only they did.

A surge to the byeline, defeated Downing and pulled the ball back to where Tom Williams stood unmarked on the edge of the box to smack the ball into the corner of the net. Nightmare.. Or maybe I should save that exclamation.

Boro and Bamford did not let this goal floor them. Britt Assombalonga had looked forlorn being subbed but Bamford was so much better than him playing as the target man. Unlike Britt he could hold the ball up, play others in and also seize opportunities himself. And that is precisely what he did. Bamford roared into the box, looked to have played the ball too hard past Camp but then pulled it back from wide into the back of the unguarded net. 3-2. It should have been the winner.

There were chances at both ends before injury time. Randolph had finger tipped away another shot from the edge of the box. Bamford forced Camp into a save from a free kick deep into six minutes added on. Time largely added on for Sunderland players taking injury time outs at almost every opportunity.

Boro attacked and drew everyone over to one side of the field so that George Friend was left exposed on his own. Boro got away with it and conceded the corner. Except we didn’t get away with it because the ball evaded everyone in the box and went to the edge of the area where once again a Sunderland man was unmarked and able to pick his spot. What a sickener.

As that corner was swinging over there was so much pushing into the centre that everyone was flattened in the box and it left a Garry Monk style parting for the ball to pass through. No excuse though, we should have controlled play well away from the box but also should have left no player free to shoot.

The goal certainly silenced the Boro crowd who filed out feeling like we had been mugged of all 3 points not just for the draw. Sunderland have finally avoided a defeat to us. And Boro now have to face Leeds minus our main man, Traore.

The only real positives have to be the emergence of Mo Besic as a real midfield force and above all Patrick Bamford as goal scoring centre forward. That small squad looks thinner still now but can we capitalise on the re-emergence of Paddy Bamford as Boro’s number 9.

Sunderland 3-3 Middlesbrough – Bamford (2) Leadbitter (pen)


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