TONY Mowbray has expressed his relief after Middlesbrough’s fans were spared yet another long-distance cup-tie.
The club’s supporters have been offered free coach travel to Swansea City later this month after being drawn away from home in the League Cup for the 12th time running. The odds against that are one in 4,096.
So Mowbray is relieved they have had more luck in the FA Cup, where Boro will entertain the winners of the all-non-league replay between Harrogate Town and Hastings United in the new year.
“I’m just happy we are playing at home,” Mowbray said. “It’s a big relief that we will be at the Riverside.
“Logistically it makes a big difference to us.
“We do a lot of travelling in the Championship so it’s good that we won’t be potentially facing a long journey to Hastings. I’m also happy that we are playing against opposition who are not in our division.
“It’s fantastic that non-league sides are still in the competition, it’s great credit to both Hastings and Harrogate.
“We know how hard the game will be. We saw that against Shrewsbury in the third round last season.”
Marvin Emnes’ 40th-minute goal was all that separated Boro from the Shrews, and they went on to face Sunderland in a fourth-round tie which went to extra time in the replay before the Black Cats triumphed.
“Everyone expects you to steamroller the opposition but it never works out like that,” said Mowbray of the prospect of facing lower-division sides.
“We certainly don’t expect an easy game when it comes around in January whoever we play.
“But before then we have some big Championship games to negotiate.”
Isthmian League Premier Division team Hastings are the lowest-ranked team left in the FA Cup but Harrogate will be looking to set up an all-North Yorkshire third-round tie.
The game will go ahead as planned on January 5 after the television companies looked elsewhere for live games, with Newcastle United’s trip to Brighton and Hove Albion selected for the Saturday lunchtime slot.
Boro will be in south Wales a week today playing for a place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals.
As the last-four ties are played over two legs, it will also guarantee a first home game in the competition since August 2008. Yeovil Town were the last League Cup visitors to the Riverside.
Since then the Teessiders have clocked up almost 3,500 miles on the road. The journey to Swansea alone is a 640-mile round-trip.
The competition’s sponsors have offered to pay for official club coaches travelling to the Liberty Stadium.
“Boro’s run of away games is unprecedented in the history of the League Cup, and as sponsors of the competition we wanted to reward their loyal fans for yet another journey on the road,” said Michael Woodburn, chief marketing officer for the credit card company.
The move has won the approval of Boro central defender Jonathan Woodgate.
“This is a great gesture from Capital One and I’m sure that our fans will be very grateful,” said the former Newcastle player.
“Being drawn away twelve times in a row has been hard for our fans but they’ve never wavered in their support for the team.”
One hundred and ninety-six places are available on four official coaches.
Fans interesting in claiming a free seat have been advised to contact Middlesbrough’s ticket office on 0844 499 1234.