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FOR the first time this season, and for the first time since Lennie Lawrence became Middlesbrough's manager three seasons ago, Sunderland have moved above their rivals from Teesside, thanks to a narrow, but deserved, win at Roker Park yesterday before a crowd of 16,473.
The game was shown live on local television which may have accounted for the comparatively low turn-out, but Sunderland will be satisfied that it was their first win this season in a live televised game.
Their victory was also revenge for the 4-1 defeat by Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park last October.
It was not a classic derby, but it had its moments, particularly late in the second half when Sunderland scored twice inside four minutes through Phil Gray and Lee Howey and Middlesbrough struck back three minutes later from central defender Steve Vickers.
Six players were cautioned by a referee who likes to keep order through a strict interpretation of the rules. They were: Ord, Armstrong and Bennett, of Sunderland plus Moore, Pollock and Fleming, of Middlesbrough.
The frostbound pitch which had a light covering of snow did not help play to flow smoothly but Sunderland always looked more likely to score.
Gray was denied twice in the first half by brave interceptions from Stephen Pears, the Middlesbrough keeper. Richard Liburd, the Middlesbrough full-back, was then fortunate not to concede a penalty towards half-time when he brought down the enterprising Craig Russell.
But there was no doubt in the referee's mind when Nicky Mohan tripped Russell after 67 minutes. Gray firmly converted the penalty.
Howey, who replaced the injured Gordon Armstrong, then scored with a powerful header from Martin Smith's corner. But Middlesbrough replied from Vickers, who stole up on the blind side to volley home a deep cross from Robbie Mustoe which was headed on by Paul Wilkinson.
Middlesbrough made a determined effort to save the game but were denied by Alex Chamberlain who stopped a swerving free-kick from Craig Hignett in the last minute.
Goals: P Gray pen (67) 1-0; Howey (71) 2-0; Vickers (75) (2-1).
Sunderland (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Owers, Bennett, Melville, Ord; Smith, Ball, Ferguson, Armstrong (Howey, 45); Russell (Atkinson, 72), P Gray. Substitute not used: Norman (gk).
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Pears; Fleming, Mohan, Vickers, Liburd; Stamp (Hignett, 23), Peake, Pollock, Mustoe; Wilkinson, Moore. Substitutes not used: Whyte, Collett (gk).
Referee: M Peck (Kendal).Reuse content