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The under-23s and under-18s are both heading to the north east of the country in the next 24 hours or so with the under-23s at Middlesbrough this afternoon before the under-18s take on Sunderland tomorrow afternoon.

It’s a tough one for the under-23s this afternoon against a Middlesbrough team who  are on the crest of a wave having beaten Sunderland 6-0 on Monday of this week to move into third place in Division 2 of Premier League 2 while we currently sit next to bottom, ahead of just Sunderland on goal difference.

Although this is a first league meeting between the teams, we did play Middlesbrough in the Premier League Cup last season. Although they beat us 2-1 in January, when Ali Koiki scored our goal from the penalty spot, we were very unfortunate to do no more than draw in the away game at Bishop Auckland last October. We led for much of the game through Scott Wilson before Middlesbrough equalised with a very late and controversial penalty that upset coach Steve Stone to such an extent that he received a yellow card and then stormed off, not to be seen on the touchline again until this season.

Today’s game, also at Bishop Auckland, kicks off at 2 p.m.

It’s an afternoon kick off for the under-18s tomorrow when Tony Philliskirk (pictured) takes his team to his home town of Sunderland. It’s a key game. We are fourth from bottom with three points but facing a Sunderland team who are still to get off the mark having lost all of their four games to date.

Sunderland are one of four teams in the north division who have scored less goals than us. We’ve netted eight times in five games, more than Blackburn, Leeds, Stoke and Sunderland who have the worst scoring record with just three goals. However, defensively, along with Stoke, we have the worst record having conceded thirteen goals, and that’s one more than Sunderland.

This is the first time the teams have met at under-18s level and kick off is 1 p.m. at the Academy of Light.

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