Phil Smith analyis: Boro 1 Sunderland 0 - please end the season now!

Adnan Januzaj has been a huge disappointment this season.
Adnan Januzaj has been a huge disappointment this season.
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Welcome to the North East, where fans have little choice but to turn to gallows humour and joke about the dearth of quality in their own teams.

Neither side came out of this with much credit, Middlesbrough lucky to come up against such woeful opposition.

While the away support for the most part stuck to endearingly self-deprecating songs, it was little surprise that it turned to raw anger by the end.

Sunderland had flickered at the start of the second half but the overbearing sense as the game fizzled out was of disbelief. Disbelief at the lack of quality and direction, fury nine months in the make spilling out.

The Black Cats have for some time been in footballing purgatory.

An impasse as they limped towards the drop, players knowing they will be heading for pastures new, a manager waiting to replace them.

The result was apathy, despair.

No more. This is altogether more torturous, a side lacking identity and direction.

Bournemouth visit on Saturday.

The atmosphere will begin tense and who knows where it will go from there. It has now reached the point that every football fan dreads, where going to the game comes a trial and a tribulation, little to be enjoyed, plenty to be endured.

Sunderland had started this contest on the front foot, carrying on from where they finished against West Ham.

George Friend, one of Boro’s better performers in recent times, was uneasy, overwhelmed as Didier Ndong pushed into the space left by Wahbi Khazri, who cut inside to try and make his presence felt.

What followed was so depressingly familiar.

An easy goal, a lapse in concentration, and a tepid response.

Pace has long been a problem for Sunderland, a deficiency going back many seasons, but to be overrun in the first half by such a pedestrian Boro side was damning.

Marten De Roon, Adam Clayton and Adam Forshaw did not like a particular dynamic trio, yet glided forward at will.

Sunderland’s midfield could do little to resist, Ndong aside, whose tenacity at the very least helped Sunderland steady as the half progressed.

Behind the Gabon man there was confusion and tension. Darron Gibson is not a natural holding midfielder and seemed to be pulled out of position too easily. No one was able to cover, John O’Shea exposed.

Victor Anichebe at times threatened to destroy substiute Fabio, but faded.

David Moyes inherited a difficult situation but his signings and selections have done nothing to correct Sunderland’s obvious long-term flaws. The way his midfield was brushed aside here showed that they have been worsened.

Few managers have survived when the away support turn.

Moyes may well be the first given the club’s attitude to avoid another change, but the argument that stability comes first no longer holds much sway.

This is not stability.

This is a lifeless, heartbreaking decline, and there are no signs of it being turned around.

There is little than be changed in the short term.

The substitutions made at the Riverside only served to underline the malaise. Fabio Borini, who was criticised by the manager on Tuesday afternoon, whose agent Moyes quite rightly chastised a fortnight ago for dropping the first hints at a summer exodus. That is no recipe for a game changing cameo.

Adnan Januzaj, whose next step is already the subject of much debate.

Jack Rodwell, who arrived with much promise long ago, but hopes of it being fulfilled faded quite some time ago.

There is nothing more to eked out of this squad.

That so many will leave this summer is a damning indictment of a failing transfer policy, from current and previous regimes.

The turnover, the short-termism, little wonder that the attacking play is so patchy, the defending so tense.

The summer cannot come quick enough, but it feels quite a way in the distance in now.

Before then, there will be a bitter inquest and much acrimony.

The truth is that we are heading into uncharted territory. It feels almost unprecedented that there is such little prospect of change after such a wretched campaign.

Mistakes of the past only explain so much when there are so many problems with the current.

What is Sunderland’s identity?

It is a question asked so often during this tussle with the Premier League.

It feels more pertinent than ever now, so many questioning their faith.

Deep change is needed if the Black Cats are to compete in the Championship. Hope is in short supply.

Sunderland are one bad result from the drop, five games from the end of season. A comprehensive failure that the manager owns as much as the squad he built and those above him.