Sunderland made the short trip down the A19 to take on Tony Pulis' Middlesbrough in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
Chris Coleman made several changes, including a start for Josh Maja and fellow academy player Ethan Robson, in for the injured Darron Gibson. The Boro boss elected to go with Rudy Gestede as the lone striker for the home side in place of regular frontman Brit Assombalonga.
First Impressions and the Ground
4500 fans made the short trip along the road and with the early kick off many fans chose to go straight down on the bus and leave the drinking until the ground. However, people who travelled by train could grab a pint in the crowded dedicated away pubs Dr Brown's or Spencley's, both near the station.
The ground itself is a fairly modern ground, compared to some, as the Riverside was built in the 90s. However it's narrow staircases and scarce toilet facilities on the concourse suggest otherwise. A few pies were on offer but after sampling one in the league game earlier this season, I thought I'd give it a miss, especially at £3.80! Pints were at a similar price too, although in the middle of the concourse most pints were airborne due to the Gary Rowell song!
What to say about that! Utterly pathetic, Robson looked our best player and that isn't a compliment; the young lads tried a bit more than so called senior players. Marc Wilson attempted to play as a third centre half when defending and an anchoring midfielder going forward, in the 'Gibson' role. However, Wilson's passing wasn't exactly on point and far from the capabilities of his fellow countryman.
As much as I think Maja is a quality young player with shed loads of potential, the lad just doesn't seem able to stay on his feet at the slightest bit of contact.
George Honeyman got himself booked for a ridiculous challenge on the edge of their area, to be honest it was one of the only things he did all game, even his normal work ethic seemed non existent particularly in the first half.
Jason Steele's defence let him down as Rudy Gestede notched in Boro's first, the Benin striker ghosted past the sleeping back 3 of Wilson, O'Shea and Ty Browning, before finishing it past Steele, who could've done a lot better.
Maja had a chance but decided he'd rather take on the whole Boro defence rather than shooting, the eventual shot ended up at the side netting of Darren Randolph's goal.
Denmark international Martin Braithwaite doubled the Teesiders' lead when some calamitous goalkeeping from the yet again incompetent Steele gifted the Middlesbrough hit man a goal on a silver platter.
Although Coleman says the players came out second half fighting, some fans would beg to differ, he claimed that "I didn't need to say anything, the players sorted it themselves" despite this, the second had already killed us off.
Bryan Oviedo's crosses were certainly something to behold! They were only dangerous to those in the latter rows of the home end, hopeless. Lazy balls aimed roughly towards the area were to an acceptable quality for him on numerous occasions, but did he look bothered? I'll let you answer that one.
The Costa Rican wasn't the only culprit, anybody who put the ball into the box never seemed to understand that we have no height in the area, yet insist on playing a ball in that somebody who's 9 foot would struggle to reach.
Post match thoughts
After that display, the players didn't even bother making an effort to applaud the fans who'd put in some effort for them. Grant Leadbitter applauded the Sunderland fans more than any of our own players did. Considering the club didn't put complimentary buses on, fans had to pay roughly a tenner for coaches to watch them overpaid chancers, not mentioning their match ticket.
Next Saturday Chris Coleman's men travel to South Wales to take on high flying Bluebirds Cardiff City. Our lovely friends over at Sky Sports decided to reward the fans by putting it on at dinner time. Despite that we've still managed to sell over 300 tickets so far, especially good considering most buses leave at midnight or in the early hours, not mentioning the train journey or the expense of flying.
Something else to look forward to is the next part of 'On the grill where I've spoken to a former goalkeeper...