POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Middlesbrough

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Middlesbrough

It was a clash of the two firmest defences in the Championship on Saturday with the Owls facing a Middlesbrough side flying high at the right end of the division.

Boro came into the fixture at S6 though on the back of a 1-0 reverse at home to Leeds the previous weekend and a 1-0 win over Bolton in midweek, despite supporters and manager alike commenting on how their showing was against the Lancastrians at the Riverside.

Wednesday’s recent form against the Teesiders also gave Wednesdayite reasons to show at least an ounce of optimism despite the visitors’ lofty position as the Owls had won three of the last four meetings against them.

The latest of those victories was in August when a sun-kissed Riverside saw Atdhe Nuhiu net twice and Stevie May get on the score-sheet for his new club as Boro conceded three goals for the first and only time this season to date.

It was going to be a far trickier task this time around though as Aitor Karanka’s men had only lost once in the league since Christmas with the men in red beating Manchester City in the FA Cup during the process.


Adomah; A real handful…not today

Our visitors to S6 set their stall in out in a surprising fashion at Hillsborough with a 3-5-2 formation being employed by the Spaniard, Karanka, with the attacking force of Albert Adomah – who I’ve seen cause us several problems with his raw pace and trickery in the past with Middlesbrough and formerly with Bristol City – positioned in a more disciplined right wing-back though meaning perhaps his offensive qualities were something that we, thankfully, weren’t as likely to see down our left flank.

Stuart Gray named an unchanged outfit from the one that eventually eased to three points against struggling Millwall in midweek with two of the goalscorers, Lewis McGugan and Atdhe Nuhiu, both deservedly retaining their starting berths in the Wednesday line-up.

With new owner Dejphon Chansiri seated next his predecessor Milan Mandaric in the director’s box it gave the fans an extra incentive to bag a first victory on home turf (what’s left of it anyway!) since the Boxing Day scrap against Blackpool.

It was the aforementioned Adomah who sparked the game’s first real piece of action just a few minutes in as the 24-year old cut in side of Jacques Maghoma in the penalty area and claimed he was tripped by the latter, an early decision for referee, Steve Martin, to make but the vocal appeals from the 4,500 travelling fans were swiftly waved away from the man in black.

In the tight yet nonetheless entertaining opening exchanges to the contest it was the hosts who created the first slice of goalmouth action as Liam Palmer whipped a pacey low delivery into the Boro box where Nuhiu showed a great piece of strength to hold off visitors’ defender, Tomas Kalas, before offloading a short ball for the onrushing Kieran Lee who swiftly shifted the ball to the left of the area to Maghoma who tried to squeeze an effort past the retreating Adomah but the latter got a nick on the ball to take the sting out of the left-footed shot and see Dimi Konstantopolous pluck the ball away from the advancing Will Keane.

Hillsborough Pitch Field

Hillsborough; Not the best surface around

On the ever disintegrating Hillsborough surface Gray’s men were transferring the ball quite nicely across the pitch as a nicely weighted ball from left to right by Maghoma towards the attacking Palmer saw the Owls’ academy product deliver an even better cross this time, again for the impressive Nuhiu whose header back across goal met the head of Keane who failed to manage to keep his effort down as the ball landed on top of the Boro net.

No goals as of yet but it was certainly pleasing to see us compete with a Premier League-chasing outfit and especially to see the urgency we had to get the ball forward to Nuhiu who was giving their three centre-halves a torrid afternoon with the Austrian no doubt having his best outing in the blue and white stripes that I’d seen for sure.

We were almost done by a simple lump up front not long after though as Gibson’s punt from halfway saw Adam Forshaw get in behind of our so far rigid backline with the ex-Brentford midfield doing well to stay on his feet with McGugan’s presence being felt from behind but Forshaw failed to successfully lob the onrushing Westwood from a pretty difficult angle.

That was about that from the opening 45 minutes with Wednesday certainly proving a firm test against a far from extraordinary Middlesbrough outfit and with Nuhiu causing Gibson, Kalas and Omeruo all kinds of problems in the attacking third of the field and the midfield working tirelessly elsewhere, the half-time standing ovation was no doubt warranted from three sides of the ground.

The second period saw much of the same from the hosts with a high intensity and quick pressure on the ball imposed on Boro and our directness on the ball being evident again with dividends this time being paid in the Owls’ favour.

Palmer produced another handy angled knock towards the big frame of Atdhe who headed the ball into the area where Omeruo inadvertently deflected the ball away using his raised right-arm, an incident that offered much more clarity in real time than it did when watching it back on the TV later on. There would’ve been more debate sparked had the penalty not been given that it did when it had been, let’s put it that way.

Nuhiu Penalties

Big Dave; Never misses a sitter

Big Dave stepped up to the spot like he did a year previously against the Riverside outfit and again duly obliged from twelve yards (just) to screw the ball past Konstantopolous who’d been beaten not for the first time against a Wednesday number 9, Macca in ’05 ring any bells anyone?

It wasn’t long before Nuhiu’s presence was influential again as a McGugan pinpoint free-kick was flicked goal-wards by the former onto the base of the post before the ball bounced up nicely for Keane who showed his natural goal-scoring hunger with a brave header right into the Middlesbrough net to send the Kop into a rare state of raptures in the S6 sunshine.

The passion displayed by the players when they all celebrated underneath the stand demonstrated the togetherness of the lads and was almost as refreshing as the goal itself.

A third was almost added as McGugan slid the ball through for the lively Keane who found himself in a carbon copy of the position where he fired past Lee Grant the week before at Derby, however this time the Manchester United loanee failed to beat the keeper from 12 yards out.

We were almost made to pay for that failure to hit the net as a rare sighting of the Teesider’s quality was displayed when the quiet Patrick Bamford got in behind and opted to try and square for Kike who would’ve notched his 8th league goal of the campaign had it not been for the excellent recovering Palmer who miraculously blocked the ball’s flight towards Westwood’s goal. Not the first time this week Palms has managed to thwart a seemingly certain goal, highlighted the improvements last year’s Player of the Year has shown defensively in recent games.

After that let off we looked well in control and for once could take a breath and strangely enjoy rather than endure the dying embers of the contest. Kike flashed another effort wide of goal with Westwood having to be alert for one of the few occasions during the game but the Owls held firm to win the battle of the league’s best defences and climb to 10th in the table.

Maghoma Hands on hips

Maghoma; Not up to his usual standard

Overall, it was a thoroughly deserved and without doubt a more than pleasant surprise to see every man in a blue and white shirt give 100% with even Maghoma showing uncharacteristic fire in the belly, highlighted the desire we had to win the contest.

14 points outside the play-offs means another season of mid-table consolidation is on the cards but we can hardly complain with the takeover now secured and the depth of the squad we possessed at the start of the season.

Certainly reason to be optimistic for the future where the future is certainly bright for those in blue and white!


Owls Alive

Twitter: @JonOwlzz and @OwlsAlive

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