Football: Confident Middlesbrough ride high

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough. . .4

Sunderland. . . . 1

MIDDLESBROUGH recovered their early-season confidence and cohesion with a convincing win over their rivals Sunderland at Ayresome Park yesterday. The Teessiders move up to third place in the First Division, two points behind Tranmere and Charlton.

Sunderland could have few complaints about the outcome, but they effectively pressed the self-destruct button early in the second half. The award of a penalty at 3-1 down after Don Goodman was brought down by Richard Liburd was a crucial moment, but Goodman blasted his kick high over the bar. Thereafter, Sunderland never looked like getting back into the game and in the 77th minute, Paul Wilkinson scored his second to make it 4-1.

Sunderland got off to an unhappy start, losing the full-back Richard Ord in an aerial challenge with Craig Hignett. Hignett went on to open the scoring; Ord, however, was taken off on a stretcher before losing consciousness and being taken to hospital where he recovered from the concussion. Terry Butcher, Sunderland's manager, expects him to be out for at least two weeks.

Despite Ord's departure, Sunderland briefly took the game to Middlesbrough and they drew level when Goodman, receiving from Lee Howey, cleverly drove the ball across Steve Pears and into the far corner. It was an enterprising goal, but Middlebrough bettered it shortly afterwards. John Hendrie ran on to a ball from Robbie Mustoe, leapt over a scything challenge from Gary Bennett, steadied himself and managed to keep his balance to shoot low into the net.

Middlesbrough went further ahead in the 33rd minute through Wilkinson, who excepted a chance on the edge of the area after Hendrie had been thwarted.

The second half was less entertaining than the first with the referee booking Middlesbrough's Mustoe and Hignett and Sunderland's Brian Atkinson.

Lennie Lawrence, Middlesbrough's manager, said: 'We were considerably better today than we have been, but the scoreline was a bit harsh on Sunderland. There is plenty of room for improvement in some of our defensive work.'

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Pears; Liburd, Whyte, Mohan, Morris; Hignett, Pollock, Mustoe, Moore; Hendrie, Wilkinson. Substitutes not used: Fleming, Stamp, Collett (gk).

Sunderland (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Ball, Bennett, Melville, Ord (Russell, 10); Owers, Ferguson (Lawrence, 67), Armstrong, Atkinson; Goodman, Howey. Substitute not used: Norman (gk).

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).