NEWCASTLE fans making the short trip to Teesside could be forgiven for feeling more than a little optimistic going into tonight's Tees-Tyne clash.

Not only are the high-flying Magpies favourites to win the match, recent history is also firmly on their side.

Newcastle have yet to suffer a League defeat at the Riverside, prompting defender Nikos Dabizas to last season label the Teesside stadium as 'a lucky ground' for the Magpies.

Boro have hosted only one win over their North-East rivals at the Riverside.

On a chilly November night back in 1996, goals from Derek Whyte, Mikkel Beck and Fabrizio Ravanelli secured a 3-1 victory over Newcastle that hoisted Bryan Robson's side into the quarter-finals of the League Cup against Liverpool. Alan Shearer got the Magpies' only goal.

It is a win Boro fans have since savoured following years of Tees-Tyne dominance by Newcastle stretching back as far as August 27, 1991 when goals by Paul Wilkinson, Willie Falconer, and Mark Proctor at Ayresome Park secured a 3-0 triumph for Boro in the old Second Division.

And to make matters worse for the Teessiders, it has been just over a quarter of a century since David Armstrong's brace handed Boro their last top-flight win over the Magpies back at the onset of the 1977-78 season. Middlesbrough won the match 2-0.

Northern Echo Sport looks back at Newcastle United's six previous League visits to the Riverside Stadium...

February 10, 1996

Middlesbrough 1 Newcastle 2 Faustino Asprilla made a dream debut for the Magpies as he inspired Kevin Keegan's side to a 2-1 triumph in the first ever Tees-Tyne derby held at the Riverside.

Asprilla - who had only just completed his protracted £7.5m transfer from Italian side Parma the previous day - came on as a 67th minute substitute and made an instant impact, supplying the cross for Steve Watson to cancel out John Beresford's first-half own goal.

The controversial Colombian ran rings around the Boro defence before setting up Les Ferdinand's winner in the final stages of the match.

February 22, 1997

Middlesbrough 0 Newcastle 1

A combination of bad luck and bad refereeing by Steve Dunn denied Boro a deserved share of the spoils.

Les Ferdinand's clinical strike was enough to secure the win for Kenny Dalglish's Newcastle side, but woeful finishing and a controversial decision at the start of the second half was Boro's ultimate downfall.

Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli saw what would have been his 21st goal of the season chalked off in the 49th minute, when he was harshly penalised for a foul on United defender Phillipe Albert.

But there appeared little contact as the fiery Italian fired in off Shaka Hislop's right-hand post.

Boro boss Robson moaned: "He (referee Dunn) saw something I didn't see and I don't think anyone else in the stadium saw it."

December 6, 1998

Middlesbrough 2 Newcastle 2

Steve Harper, on his first full game for Newcastle, was simply stunning in this hotly-contested derby.

Harper, signed by the Magpies from Northern League club Seaham Red Star, admitted to having a few nerves after learning he was to replace the injured Shay Given.

But the Easington-born keeper showed no signs of his unease, producing a spectacular save to foil Brian Deane from point-blank range and an even better one to deny a powerful low drive by Andy Townsend, scorer of Boro's first goal.

However, it was late substitute Dabizas that grabbed all the headlines with an equaliser six minutes from time.

It was the second time Newcastle had fought back to level the scores with Laurent Charvet cancelling out Townsend's opener before Colin Cooper's deflected strike had made it 2-1 to the Teessiders.

May 2, 2000

Middlesbrough 2 Newcastle 2

Gianluca Festa salvaged a richly-deserved point for Middlesbrough after compatriot Alessandro Pistone looked set to take all the derby glory.

Juninho produced arguably his best performance since his Teesside return from Atletico Madrid on loan and opened the scoring after five minutes.

However, Bobby Robson's men fought back to level through Gary Speed just six minutes later and then took the lead through Pistone after 19 minutes.

But after a switch to their favoured 5-3-2 formation at half-time, Boro got the rich reward their second half dominance merited as Festa swooped 11 minutes from time to earn a draw.

October 16, 2000

Middlesbrough 1 Newcastle 3

Alan Shearer and Co ensured that Bryan Robson's derby misery continued down by the Riverside as Newcastle comfortably ran out 3-1 winners against a lacklustre Boro side.

The writing was on the wall for Boro - already without a win at home all season - as soon as Shearer struck in the 38th minute.

French defender Alain Goma doubled the visitors' lead ten minutes into the second half with his first goal for the club and Kieron Dyer wrapped up the victory following good work by Shearer.

Boro scrambled a goal late on when Argentinian Carlos Marinelli crossed for Brian Deane to bundle home.

The win fired Newcastle into third while Boro slumped to 16th.

September 8, 2001

Middlesbrough 1 Newcastle 4

The Magpies inflicted a fourth straight defeat on the Teessiders to cap a terrible start to Steve McClaren's Riverside reign.

Boro started the match well, with Colin Cooper handing the home side a deserved lead in the opening exchanges.

However, Newcastle fought back and were rewarded when Mark Schwarzer was red-carded for bringing down Laurent Robert on the half-hour mark.

The resultant spot-kick, converted by Shearer, brought United level, but Boro were themselves awarded a penalty after skipper Paul Ince was felled by Shay Given in an almost identical incident to the one that had seen Boro reduced to ten men.

However, referee Graham Poll thought otherwise and only booked the Magpies keeper. Boro's misery was compounded when Given saved Jonathan Greening's weak effort.

Newcastle then took the lead through Shearer before half-time and Robert then increased the pain on the home side as he set up two second-half strikes for defender Dabizas and Shearer