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Match Report: Middlesbrough 1-2 Sunderland (AET) - Not Pretty, But Mission Accomplished

Jack Colback set us on the way tonight, but given the slog the game was, and the extra time, it feels like a decade ago.
Jack Colback set us on the way tonight, but given the slog the game was, and the extra time, it feels like a decade ago.

Martin's men go marching on, and despite all the pre-match hoopla about Fabio Capello's resignation, there was a football match to be played. A game which at times was an excellent cup-tie, at others it was a real slog, but we managed to get through things, and that's all that really matters.

At least it didn't go to penalties, but extra time will prove to be far from ideal preparation for the game against Arsenal at the weekend, especially with Stephane Sessegnon picking up a minor knock during the extra time period.

Anyway, you can read all these thoughts and more in our match report, so keep reading as we recap it from start to finish...

Martin O'Neill made just the one change to the starting line-up, as was expected, with Fraizer Campbell coming in to the starting line-up ahead of David Meyler as a more attacking line-up was preferred. On the bench is was nice to see youngsters Craig Lynch and Adam Reed fill in for Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who were both unavailable having not been registered for the original game.

The opening ten minutes relatively even, however I'd say we nicked it. Sebastian Larsson forced Jason Steele into a relatively routine save at his near post from a poor (by his own high standards) free kick. Simon Mignolet at the other end was just as much bystander, having to deal with only Julio Arca's shot from distance, straight down the Belgian's throat.

Things opened up a little after a fairly tepid start. Youngster (and Mag) Curtis Main had a dribbling shot straight at Mignolet before Larsson and Richardson both proceeded to drill chances well wide of the 'Boro goal. Larsson's particularly disappointing as Fraizer Campbell was ready and waiting to slot home any cut-back.

It was Main who had the best chance of the first half hour though. A free kick sent in and Main seemed to just flick a toe at it, drawing a very good save from Mignolet who tipped over the bar. The resulting corner came to nothing, but as the home crowd sensed blood, a header from Lukas Jutkiewicz looped harmlessly over the top. It might have taken a while, but it seemed for a brief moment we might well have a cup tie on our hands after all.

As half-time approached you couldn't help but notice our passing was atrocious for extended periods of the first half. If it wasn't going to be fixed at the break by O'Neill then it would take something special to break the deadlock, and thankfully up stepped Jack Colback to make his own contribution to the SAFC Unofficial Goal Of The Month Awards.

It was Route One stuff too. John O'Shea with a seemingly hopeful long ball up to Fraizer Campbell, the former Manchester United man nodded back to the incumbent Ginger Prince to strike the ball into the net with such fury you think the ball had somehow wronged him earlier in the day. You don't save those. He must have a foot like a traction engine.

It seemed to spark the home side into action though, and we had to be very alert when at first Curtis Main forced Mignolet into a low diving save to his right, before Tony McMahon's piledriver was cleared off the line by Phil Bardsley with Mignolet well beaten.

For the hosts, the half time whistle wasn't particularly welcome. For us, it was exactly what we needed. To get back in there and despite having the goal lead, have a look at what's going on and really start to show we were the Premier League team.

Michael Turner once again found himself in the penalty area, and promptly fluffed his lines, just as he did at the other end when Lukas Jutkiewicz equalised for the 'Boro. It was quite similar to our own opening goal. Long boot forward nodded down by Main towards Jutkiewicz. Turner seemed to run past the ball, giving the striker a free shot on goal, and he didn't make any mistake with the finish to open his account for the club.

We managed to arrest things luckily following the goal. The home fans were in full voice whenever the side entered our half, but in the ten or so minutes following the goal there was only a Jutkiewicz wayward shot to show for their efforts. As far as a response went, we seemed to try our luck from distance. Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner with varying degrees of accuracy and danger.

With all these long range efforts it was only a matter of time before Phil Bardsley chanced his arm, and it was nearly he who made the difference as his shot came crashing back off the foot of the post. Seb Larsson, not having the best of games, also ploughed a dangerously placed free kick right into the 'Boro wall.

The final ten minutes came about with things on an even keel. We squandered our half chances, Middlesbrough didn't really create any but looked a danger on the counter attack, almost playing us at our own game. Still, neither team could take an advantage, and we were treated to an extra thirty minutes time.

The first half of extra time was incident packed as both sides went in search of a winner. Jack Colback went close with a shot from distance, as did Gardner. Gardner was also unlucky with a header narrowly over the bar but it was 'Boro who were the closest to breaking through. Marvin Emnes with the most clear-cut chance. Justin Hoyte charged through to lay in the Dutchman in acres of space inside the area, but thankfully a combination of O'Shea and Turner scrambled things away. Tony McMahon on the rebound could only find Row Z. A major let off, and one we simply had to take advantage of as the second half unfolded.

The second half didn't come to light until Stephane Sessegnon gave us the lead. It was the Benin man with a great run setting up substitute Connor Wickham... one touch... two... JUST SHOOT!... He did, it was blocked, but Sessegnon was there to follow up and lash home with eight minutes of time remaining. It was then just about seeing time out and ensuring our route through to the next round.

It was a nervous final few minutes. Hines moved to an emergency striker, shots from Reach and Williams came close but not close enough, and a fifth round tie with Arsenal was booked at long last.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (6), Bardsley (7), O'Shea (7), Turner (5), Richardson (6), Larsson (5), Colback (7), Gardner (7), McClean (6), Sessegnon (7), Campbell (7)

Subs Used: Wickham (5), Meyler (6), Elmohamady (5)

Man Of The Match: John O'Shea - A bit of a tough one to call really as nobody was particularly head and shoulders above the rest, but I was impressed by O'Shea tonight. Was solid at the back, and often had to cover for Michael Turner who had a relatively poor game. Gardner was also canny mind, but he lost this coin flip.

So as I said, the extra time period was both a blessing as it allowed us the time to get the necessary goal and get through to the next round, but we wait with all fingers and toes crossed that Sessegnon is OK for the weekend and the foreseeable future.

Hopefully it won't be too draining on us as we take on Arsenal in the league at the weekend.

The "Party With Marty" continues, and dare I say it, 18/1 to go all the way in the competition is looking rather tasty.

Ha'way The Lads.

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