Hartlepool United’s Howard targets derby double

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STEVE Howard is out to complete a North East double against Middlesbrough tonight.

The Newcastle United fan was the Pools match-winner during Friday night’s 1-0 triumph over Sunderland.

And with Boro another of the Magpies’ derby rivals, Howard admits he is eyeing a similar outcome.

“I’m out to complete the North-East double tonight – that would do nicely!” the 36-year-old said.

“The Sunderland match was great for me to get that winning goal given who I support, and it was the first time I’ve ever scored against them as well.

“I’m looking forward to this one tonight, too, and it should be another good test for us.”

There were nearly 5,500 inside Victoria Park for the visit of the Black Cats and another big crowd is expected against the Teessiders.

And Howard admits that his home region’s passion for football is the best he has ever sampled.

“The atmosphere on Friday night was great,” he went on.

“I know I’m a Newcastle fan but the Sunderland fans are top class as well. Throughout all of the leagues I’ve played in, the North-East fans are brilliant.

“They just love their football. Hopefully it’ll be the same again tonight because I thought it brought out the best in us.”

Tonight’s game will be Howard’s third in seven days, but the striker admits he has needed the minutes.

“I prefer to play and the more minutes the better,” he said. “You really do need these games. Holland was just a fitness exercise and we’re not going to take too much notice of that.

“But it has taken me a while to get back in the swing of things because I hadn’t played much at Leicester last season.

“You feel as though you’ve got lead boots at times and that has always happened to me during pre-season.

“But I feel as though my fitness is spot on at the moment and there’s still a couple of weeks before the season starts.”