Match Of The Week: Sunderland 1-1 Middlesbrough

The tripartite nature of footballing rivalry in the north-east of England means that this afternoons FA Cup Fourth Round match between Sunderland and Middlesbrough has a hint of being a local derby about it without fully appearing to be the real thing. Still, supporters of both of these clubs have cause to give a wry smile this afternoon. Newcastle United, the third part of this particular triumvirate, made a long journey south to play Brighton & Hove Albion yesterday and returned chastened after a single goal defeat which means that the winners of this tie will be the regions final representative in this years competition, at the last sixteen stage. A hint of tension has, however, been brought to proceedings by Sunderland’s somewhat odd decision to only allocate Middlesbrough 3,000 tickets for what has been described as “health & safety reasons.” In addition to this, both of the clubs playing this afternoon have cause to be looking forward with greater optimism than of late. Sunderland have stabilised under new manager Martin O’Neill. It’s twenty years since they last managed to get to an FA Cup final and almost twice that long since Ian Porterfield and Jim Montgomery upset the Leeds United apple-cart at Wembley. A run to the latter stages of this competition this year would be a reasonable barometer of the speedy progress made under their new manager....

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