Boro vs Brighton - So it all comes down to this
Saturday lunchtime at the Riverside Stadium usually appears as a rather pleasant place to be on the last weekend of the season after often having very little to play for, however this time round we are expecting the polar opposite.
After a gut-wrenching last month in the promotion race it comes down to a game which both Boro and Brighton fans alike will have been looking to avoid - a final day winner takes all situation.
The feeling on Teesside was feeling resoundingly positive after 3 home victories in 7 days including a last minute winner against Reading, followed by another last minute winner away at Bolton. However only the most naïve of football fans would have put our pursuit of promotion down as a formality after such a great run.
The ecstasy of 2 last minute winners was muted in the evening kick of at Turf Moor when after being 1-0 up entering injury time Burnley chose to give us a taste of our own medicine, a taste which was decidedly bitter. This sucker punch was followed by another unfortunate draw at home to Ipswich which brought the promotion race between the top 3 to a situation which would only lead to the photo finish which every Boro fan wanted to avoid.
And the tension was only heightened over the Bank Holiday weekend with Brighton and Burnley licking their lips after seeing us drop points on a frustrating evening at St Andrews where the tension of the night appeared to ruffle the feathers of players, fans and most frustratingly officials.
Burnley seized their opportunity to secure promotion on Monday afternoon, however with Brighton fluffing their lines in the tricky home game against an in-form Derby side this set the footballing world up for the most dramatic of climaxes to a football season - a huge match which reaps huge rewards to the victor.
With little to separate the teams it is certain to be decided by the finest of margins and therefore the experience of Mike Dean as referee is a great decision, after all a game of this magnitude will need an experienced official to stop tensions from boiling over.
The match will ultimately be decided by which club can handle the pressure of the game and prize at stake. Brighton have vital experience in their squad which will certainly help however the experience acquired in Nugent, Downing and De Laet, combined with the memory of last season’s slip-up last May will hopefully be able to see us get at least the point which is required to see the club end our 7 year exile from the top flight. Motivation will not be an issue - it is merely a case of whether we can embrace the occasion.