Sheffield Wednesday’s players put financial worries and Tony Pulis’ sacking behind them as they beat Middlesbrough under the temporary stewardship of first-team coach Neil Thompson.
Callum Paterson gave the Owls a first-half lead as he slotted past Marcus Bettinelli after good build-up play allowed Liam Palmer to lift a ball through.
Liam Shaw doubled the lead soon after as he got on the wrong side of Boro’s central defenders and guided home Barry Bannan’s cross from the left after some excellent skill by the Wednesday captain.
Duncan Watmore pulled a goal back soon after the break with a composed finish on the turn after good work from Sam Morsy while Marvin Johnson hit the post as Boro tried in vain to snatch a point, spurning a host of second-half chances.
With Derby thrashing Birmingham City 4-0 in the early kick-off, victory was crucial to keep the second-from-bottom Owls in touch with the sides fighting to avoid relegation – and they scored more than once at Hillsborough for the first time since 7 December 2019.
Boro dropped a place to ninth as a three-game winning run came to an end.
Wednesday have been plunged into crisis in recent days with the news their players had not been paid their full wages for November, swiftly followed by the sacking of Pulis less than 24 hours before the match after just 10 games in charge.
With Pulis’ coaching staff of Mike Trusson and Craig Gardner also leaving the club, interim boss Thompson was assisted by Lee Bullen and goalkeeping coach Nicky Weaver.
Josh Windass had a third-minute chance for Wednesday but Paterson’s opening goal came against the run of play, as Marvin Johnson had seen an effort cleared off the line for Boro and forced a good save from Kieran Westwood shortly before the hosts went ahead.
Paterson’s goal inspired the Owls and seconds after making an excellent tackle to stop Britt Assombalonga, Shaw went up the other end and doubled the lead.
Moments after the half-time whistle there was a heated confrontation between Morsy and Bannan, with both players booked as well as Boro boss Neil Warnock after he gave his opinion on the matter.
The incident seemed to spark Boro, who hit back with Watmore’s third goal in as many games.
Boro brought on Marcus Tavernier and Chuba Akpom with 25 minutes left as they searched for an equaliser, but it was Wednesday who almost went further ahead when Paterson forced a good save from Bettinelli.
The visitors piled on the pressure as Tavernier put an effort wide after a nice one-two with Watmore and Johnson powerfully struck the upright from a tight angle.
Marc Bola and Marcus Browne also struck efforts wide of the post as the shaky Owls held on for a precious three points.
Sheffield Wednesday caretaker-manager Neil Thompson told BBC Radio Sheffield:
“It’s football. You expect the unexpected and we’ve just got to prepare the team and no matter where you are football never surprises you. We’ve put a lot of hard work into it and we’ve come away with three points.
“They’re a good set of boys, they work hard, they want to do well. Certainly in the first half, I thought we played some really good stuff and caused Middlesbrough a lot of problems. Then it flipped in the second half when they got the early goal and got us on the back foot.
“But we defended, put our bodies on the line and got ourselves in blocks and put such a lot into the second half and managed to hang on.”
Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock told BBC Radio Tees:
“The two goals decided the game really. I did think if we got the first one in the second half, we might go on and win it.
“The pitch was diabolical so everybody was knocking it long and you can’t really get much pattern into it, so I can’t blame the players altogether for that; you’ve got to adapt to the conditions really.
“It’s not very often they make mistakes like that. I won’t name names, but they know and at half-time I didn’t have to tell them really. They know they’ve made a mistake, but that’s probably the first one this season where the centre-backs have made a mistake.”
- 10BannanBooked at 45mins
- 7K Harris
- 5PatersonSubstituted forBrownat 71′minutes
- 18WindassSubstituted forPenneyat 83′minutes
- 2DijksteelSubstituted forSpenceat 88′minutes
- 5MorsyBooked at 45mins
- 8WingSubstituted forTavernierat 64′minutes
- 22SavilleBooked at 42mins
- 3JohnsonSubstituted forBrowneat 78′minutes
- 9AssombalongaSubstituted forAkpomat 65′minutes
Match ends, Sheffield Wednesday 2, Middlesbrough 1.
Second Half ends, Sheffield Wednesday 2, Middlesbrough 1.
Foul by Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough).
Tom Lees (Sheffield Wednesday) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough).
Cheyenne Dunkley (Sheffield Wednesday) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Sam Morsy (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Djed Spence replaces Anfernee Dijksteel.
Marcus Browne (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Liam Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday).
Patrick McNair (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Kadeem Harris (Sheffield Wednesday).
Substitution, Sheffield Wednesday. Matt Penney replaces Josh Windass.
Attempt missed. Marcus Browne (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Chuba Akpom.
Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Joey Pelupessy (Sheffield Wednesday).
Attempt missed. Marc Bola (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Marcus Browne replaces Marvin Johnson.
Attempt missed. Duncan Watmore (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the left side of the box is too high. Assisted by Marcus Tavernier.
Attempt blocked. Duncan Watmore (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.