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Boro fan Rob predicts a 2-0 home win - but fears what ‘fearless’ Sunderland could do to them!

Back once again to give us the musings from Middlesbrough is Rob Nichols of Boro fanzine Fly Me To The Moon. Rob talks to Rory about Garry Monk, how The Smoggies are finding life back in The Championship and how he see’s the match going.

Richard Ord

RF: Many pundits had Boro down as promotion favourites, with Garry Monk coming in and it being a pretty busy transfer window. It's been a mixed start though (a start we would kill for, admittedly) so what needs to change if you're to push on for promotion?

RN: Consistency will be the key. That builds confidence.

Two away wins on the trot has given us a timely boost but now it is absolutely imperative we bring that form home and win against Sunderland today.

RF: Has your outlook for the overall season changed at all? Did you expect a promotion push or were calls for that a bit at odds with most fans thoughts?

RN: We had high expectations going into the season and they have taken a knock, no doubt about that. In saying that a lot of teams that try and bounce back make slow starts, it is how you finish that really counts. We do need to start asserting ourselves in matches and begin putting a real winning run together now.

AFC Bournemouth v Middlesbrough - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

RF: Garry Monk did a really good job at Leeds, so most neutrals were intrigued to see how he would do a more stable club. What are you making of the new boss so far?

RN: I think it has taken longer than might have been anticipated for him to really find his feet. Maybe we should have realised that Karanka had been here a long time and ran the club in a certain way. It takes time to adjust from that, as well adjust to a different league and for Monk himself to settle in at a new club.

Monk seems a very fair minded guy and he gives people lots of chances. If you fail first time, as Daniel Ayala did with a nightmare mistake in the opening game he is prepared to give a second and even third opportunity.

Some people were unhappy with him chopping and changing but surely it is good man management to give players opportunities if they shine in cup games or in training. What we have now is a blend of experience in players like Ayala, Leadbitter and Downing and youth in teenage Marcus Tavernier. I like that.

RF: Who should us Sunderland fans be fearful of going into the game? Who's in good form?

RN: You know all about Stewart Downing but be warned he still has the passing skills to unlock defences. Britt Assombalonga might appear to be having a quiet game in the box but he has a scoring habit.

Attacking full back Cyrus Christie has been a productive supply route as well.

Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

RF: On the same note, anyone worrying you in our side?

RN: Not so much the players but the fact you have lost your manager which often means everyone ups their game and really pulls out all the stops. I expect the game to be far more competitive than it might have been.

I don't think there will be any fear factor from Sunderland and that could cause real problems and pile pressure on Boro.

RF: How do you expect Monk to approach the game and what do you think the starting line up will be?

RN: I am expecting an unchanged team if Fabio has fully recovered from his ankle knock he picked up at Hull. That would be Randolph in goal, Christie and Fabio full backs, Gibson and Ayala centre backs as they were in our last promotion campaign.

Skipper Grant Leadbitter looking to put his hometown team in the shade. Jonny Howson trying to intercept and propel us forward. Teenager Marcus Tavernier will work hard defensively as well in attack down the left. Stewart Downing will do the same on the right and try and impose himself as a pass master. Braithwaite will try and pick your pockets playing behind Britt Assombalonga who will put himself about and try to meet the crosses at the back post.

We will try and start at a higher tempo as at Hull and Reading. Previously we had a terrible run of conceding the first goal. We will try and get our noses in front and then try and control the game. Not all out attack then but making sure we build and then hold a lead.

RF: And finally, a score prediction please?

RN: I’m thinking it might be tight because it nearly always is between us. I hope we can win 2-0 and then I will still have finger nails left afterwards.

You can check out Fly Me To The Moon on their website and follow them on Twitter.

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