Middlesbrough v Sunderland: Smiles return as Boro look to pile on agony for struggling Black Cats

Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk . Picture: PA.
Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk . Picture: PA.
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THE mood when these two clubs last met just 193 days ago could not have been more downcast.

Sunderland were already down after a truly horrible few months at the Stadium of Light while Middlesbrough were clearly going to be joining them soon in slipping through the Premier League trapdoor.

No wonder those on the banks of both the Tees and Wear dubbed last April’s Riverside clash as anything from the ‘Derby of Doom’ to ‘The Donkey Derby’ – or worse.

For the record, Marten de Roon netted the only goal as Boro tasted victory for the first time in four months, but the three points could only delay the inevitable.

Fast forward six or so months and while much has changed at Boro, the same cannot be said about the Black Cats. Manager Simon Grayson’s dismissal earlier this week continued a miserable return to the Championship that has yielded just one win and 10 points from 15 games.

A week ago, Boro did not seem to be in the rudest of health, either, but back-to-back away wins at Reading and Hull City have changed all that. Suddenly, the play-off spots are within touching distance and the smiles have returned, something that manager Garry Monk is eager to maintain.

We have talked a lot about fighting for consistency in our performance, and we certainly had that in the last two games. We are well aware it is only two games but it is a good start.

Boro boss Garry Monk

“The standard has been set,” said the Boro chief. “We have talked a lot about fighting for consistency in our performance, and we certainly had that in the last two games. We are well aware it is only two games, but it is a good start.”

On the sacking of Grayson, one of his predecessors as Leeds United manager, Monk added: “As a fellow manager, and someone I know personally, I sympathise with Simon.

“Maybe Sunderland weren’t where they should be in the table with the players they have, but every manager needs time. But that is not really my focus, my focus is firmly on my team.”