The Build Up - Middlesbrough vs Sheffield Wednesday
The third last game of the season sees Boro welcome another relegation-threatened side to the Riverside Stadium in the shape of Sheffield Wednesday.
Boro returned to winning ways, as they saw off Sheff Wed’s relegation and local rivals Rotherham on Wednesday night. It was a positive performance from Neil Warnock’s side, despite the Millers being reduced to 10 men after a Matt Crooks foul on Grant Hall just 18 minutes into the game. An early Angus MacDonald header was cancelled out by George Saville’s emphatic finish and a much needed and much-deserved goal for Chuba Akpom.
Warnock’s team played with the positive, free-flowing football that the fans have been crying out for, for several weeks, with very little to play for. The game finished 2-1 to Boro but it really should have been more. Neeskans Kebano put in his best performance for Boro yet, and should start the remainder of the games this season. Meanwhile, Bolasie constantly provided the energy and trickery that we know he is capable of. The Congolese duo seem to get better every game!
The spotlight has been on debutant Connor Malley since the game. Making his first league start, the youngster excelled in a midfield role, albeit with more time on the ball than usual. Boro fans and Malley himself will be itching to see his name in the starting eleven on Saturday.
After news broke that Assombalonga and Fletcher have finally played their last game for the club, Josh Coburn made an appearance and once again, Boro fans will be hoping to see him get more than the five minutes he got on Wednesday night.
The omissions of Djed Spence and Darnell Fisher raised eyebrows, however, the pair picked up knocks and it remains to be seen whether they will feature at the weekend.
The game is of far greater significance to Sheffield Wednesday than it is for Boro on Saturday. The Owls sit second bottom, four points away from safety, after their 12-points deduction to start the season. Survival isn’t out of sight for Wednesday with them having to play Derby County after the Boro game and will be encouraged by their midweek win over Blackburn.
Josh Windass’ sole goal was enough for the Owls to pick up all three points on Tuesday night, and give the Owls a fighting chance to stay up. Thankfully, Darren Moore’s health is improving but the Sheff Wed manager will, likely, still be missing from the touchline with Jamie Smith taking charge once again. Moore is currently battling pneumonia and blood clots, brought on by his fight with COVID-19.
Just the other day, it was the fifth-year anniversary of Jordan Rhodes’ late winner against Bolton Wanderers securing Boro three vital points in their quest for promotion. The striker now finds himself lining up for Boro’s opposition and has scored seven goals in 33 appearances this term. Fellow former Boro player, Adam Reach, has struggled to hit the heights of last season but still boasts double figures in goal contributions for the season.
The two sides met at Hillsborough in late December, where the Owls were victorious, as a Duncan Watmore second half strike proved to be a mere consolation goal for Neil Warnock and his side. First half goals from Callum Paterson and Liam Shaw were enough to give Wednesday all three points in a 2-1 win for the South Yorkshire outfit.
Boro and Sheffield Wednesday have met on numerous occasions, 114 times to be precise, with the Owls just edging the head-to-head records.
Boro wins: 47
Sheffield Wednesday wins: 49