Middlesbrough 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday: Adam Reach returns to haunt Boro
Adam Reach scores against his old club Middlesbrough in narrow win at Riverside Stadium
Last Updated: 26/12/18 6:27pm
Adam Reach netted the winner as Sheffield Wednesday made it two wins from as many games under caretaker-manager Lee Bullen after beating promotion-chasing Middlesbrough 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium.
Boro old boy Reach's excellent goal in the 20th minute proved to be the difference for the Owls, who dug in again following the departure of Jos Luhukay last week.
Wednesday might be up for sale and searching for a new manager, but it was the Middlesbrough fans left most disappointed and annoyed on Boxing Day.
This was the seventh time this season Middlesbrough have not won on home soil, leaving them nine points behind the top two a year on from Tony Pulis taking over on Teesside.
Boro hoped to deliver a second December win in a row after a disappointing spell before Christmas.
Wednesday had seen signs of improvement over the weekend when they beat Preston under the guidance of Bullen after Luhukay left.
Middlesbrough, who had five at the back but asked wing-backs Paddy McNair and George Friend to attack, made the strongest start to get the Owls on the back foot.
Stewart Downing, operating as a No 10 after his recall to the team, was quick to force Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood into a low save at his near post and that led to some decent pressure.
But the brief positivity soon turned in Sheffield Wednesday's favour when Barry Bannan started to find more freedom to cause problems.
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And it was the Scotland international's clever pass in behind the Middlesbrough defence that set Reach free. Reach then took it down brilliantly before he applied the low finish beyond goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
The home fans booed and sarcastic chants of "attack, attack, attack" could occasionally be heard knowing Middlesbrough have lacked goals and quality in the final third this season.
Sheffield Wednesday looked confident and capable of holding on at the break. Bannan dictated things in the middle, with Reach dangerous when he got on the ball. Westwood was not seriously tested.
Middlesbrough changed their system for the second half and striker Jordan Hugill was introduced for defender Dael Fry.
Even then it was a real struggle to test Westwood, with the best they could serve up a wayward McNair effort from distance.
Sheffield Wednesday stayed strong. In fact they nearly grabbed a second on the hour when former Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher almost got on the end of another clever pass from Bannan.
Marcus Tavernier's attacking intent was given the final half hour and soon after that Middlesbrough finally recorded a second effort on target.
Daniel Ayala's header from McNair's corner was comfortably held by Westwood, shortly before Tavernier's flick had to be saved by the 'keeper too.
Lewis Wing drilled an effort wide, but this was Wednesday's festive party.
Tony Pulis: "It's frustrating. We had a good result at Reading, deserved the win there then come back here and [lose]. In the first 10 minutes, quarter of an hour we started really bright, moved the ball around well, got round the back of them.
"Then they get a goal from their first effort, the disappointing thing was one or two dropped their heads a bit, which went through to half-time. I had a good chat with them. Whether you like it or not, you've got home support who are going to get behind you if you do things well, if you don't they're going to let you know, you have to accept that. The supporters of this club - it's a big club - expect and demand a certain level."
Sheffield Wednesday caretaker manager Lee Bullen: "Boro put us under a lot of pressure in the second half. We had to stand up well to stay disciplined and communicate well to withstand the onslaught. We struggled first five minutes but went into a diamond two and got a foothold in the game. After the first 10 minutes I felt we dominated the first half.
"In the second half, credit to Boro, they adjusted, came out with high energy. But for all the ball I can't remember our keeper having a big save to make. The boy Lewis Wing skipped one past the post late on but as a coach you have to be delighted."