|Pos. 16th (56 pts)
|WEDNESDAY 22 JULY 2020
|Pos. 17th (53 pts)
SHOTS (on target)
Warnock’s Wednesday Winners!
This was it, the last game of the season, and the last time Boro could do something about their Championship status. That it had come to this was painful enough after enduring the worst season for decades and in living memory for many of the younger fans. Wizard Warnock would have to delve deep into his magic kit to hopefully pull out something special to prevent Boro’s fate clinging onto a points deduction to Wigan to save their sorry souls.
Being an ex-Blade Warnock would have normally had to endure added zest but in an empty stadium, that crowd stimulator would be missing. Likewise, Monk, that perceived money waster demonised by many on Teesside would get a free ride tonight with an empty Hillsborough generating zero atmosphere. It was just simply two teams on a flat level green surface. A win for Boro meant that we would survive while a win for the Owls could mean that even with a points deduction they would also survive should the EFL ever made a decision. All the virtual Boro army were bothered about was a draw at worst and hopefully a victory however scrappy.
On availability the Owls pair Lee and Palmer were both back in contention whilst the nuisance that is Kosovan man-mountain Atdhe Nuhiu would also likely be involved for Wednesday for the very last time with his contract coming ending. For Boro, the ongoing trickle of contract departees had continued with Morrison going over the weekend and then Clayts but with Howson recklessly earning a red card, there was some speculation that Clayts may have been sent an SOS.
The official team news saw McNair drafted in for the suspended Howson, Britt for Roberts, and Stojanovic returned between the sticks in place of the benched Pears. Speaking of the bench there were only six players named by Warnock and no sign of Clayton. Along with Pears that sparse Boro bench consisted of the teenager Wood, Coulson, Wing, Roberts, and Nmecha. Monk made six changes from their last outing against Fulham bringing in Palmer, Lee, Murphy, Nuhiu, Wickham, with Shaw making his first start.
We kicked off with what looked like a front two and possibly a back three in a very inauspicious start to the game. Harris won a corner in the 3rd minute off Spence covering for Dijksteel. Murphy took it short and Bannan whipped it in but Stojanovic collected. McNair launched a Boro free-kick but it had too much on it and the ball annoyingly flew well over. On 6 minutes a quick throw-in and clever interplay between Fletcher and McNair saw Paddy hit the upright from 20 yards out. Literally, just a few millimeters inside the post and it would have deflected in.
Just as news filtered through that Derby had taken the lead against Birmingham Jacob Murphy hit a long-range shot just outside the box which took a wicked deflection off Saville and evaded a diving Stojanovic for Wednesday to take the lead. Those few seconds of hope extinguished almost as quickly as news of that Derby goal had come in on ten minutes. Then Marvin Johnson conceded another of those careless free-kicks 20 yards out that saw Bannon hit it off the Boro wall for a corner that Stojanovic thankfully won with ease.
On the quarter-hour mark, Tav put in a cross from the left that was deflected to Wildsmith who spilled it out to Fletcher who in turn spun around but hooked it straight back at the Keeper with Britt frustrated, centrally in the box and unmarked. Leeds meanwhile were beating Charlton and Blackburn beating Luton. A Wednesday threat with Kadeem Harris who skipped around Fry and took a pot shot from the edge of the box. Stojanovic was equal to it and smothered the threat. Hull were now losing to Cardiff as results elsewhere seemed to be going our way.
A bizarre, even wayward, curled Bannon backpass was read and intercepted by an alert Fletcher, taking advantage, driving forward, setting up Tavto his left who squared it back across the Owls box to McNair advancing on the opposite side and side-footing it with precision to make it 1-1 and a drinks break immediately followed as if to celebrate!
On 26 minutes Stojanovic was brave going down at the feet of Murphy and then as the ball spilled out back into play repositioned himself to collect an 18-yard drive straight back at him. Elsewhere Luton had equalised but Leeds had added a second against Charlton. Boro now enjoyed a bit of pressure with a series of throw-ins around the Wednesday corner flag on 29 minutes but just couldn’t unlock a very tight and composed Owls defence.
Another short corner routine by Bannon on 33 minutes was cut out by Friend getting in front of Whickham. Bannon sent the repeat corner back in which was put out this time by Fletcher for a third which in turn went out after Saville stood strong up against a despairing Tom Lees for a Boro goal kick. On 35 minutes news arrived that Luton had gone in front against Blackburn after a second own goal wasn’t great as they had now drawn level on points with Boro but Cardiff had just gone two up against a doomed Hull side.
Meanwhile, Boro and Wednesday had descended into a scrappy spell with neither side settling or getting a grip of the game. A Spence challenge saw the ball burst which was a shame as Djed was looking to take a quick throw-in to Tav but he had to wait for a replacement ball. A Friend free-kick on 40 minutes was launched into the Owls box but headed straight back out as neither side could force a way through.
Whickham had a chance cleared by Friend and as it came back in Boro cleared the danger again but Wednesday came back once more requiring a sharp Stojanovic dive to tip it round the post from Bannon 35 yards out for a corner. Bannon took it, sending it into the box where it was deflected and harmlessly headed over for a goal kick. Two minutes added time then came up and as things stood Boro were still safe. Wednesday had enjoyed the better of the last five minutes of the half but largely because Boro were trying too hard to play football and having over fanciful play broken up. It hadn’t been a classic and there was plenty to whine about but the results as it stood were fine from a Boro perspective and tonight was always all about the end result and not the performance.
No changes at half time and Wednesday got the second half underway but the first opportunity was a low ball from McNair to Britt who got his boot to it and as it came across to Fletcher Iorfa just got a foot to it. The resultant Boro corner was cleared by Shaw and then Harris upfield where George tidied things up playing it back to Stojanovic.
A free-kick to Boro after Britt was tripped by Bannon outside the box was hit over by Britt himself as he tried to repeat his late effort from Saturday. A poor inswinging McNair corner a few minutes later was cleared by Whickham at the near post. Boro were enjoying a little period of pressure.
Luongo then came on for the youngster Shaw on 52 minutes. Simultaneously Fulham had equalised against Wigan. Leeds meanwhile had put three past Charlton, surely Charlton couldn’t score four goals, could they? Those results were easing nerves ever so slightly.
A strong header by Fry cleared danger on 54 minutes as Wednesday were looking the more composed and it was Fry again to the rescue mere seconds later heading it spectacularly past his own upright. Elsewhere Birmingham had equalised against Derby and anxiously Boro now looked to be struggling to get back into this game. Saville got a great block in with Boro now forced to drop deep under serious Owls pressure. A shot fired across the Boro box was a warning that we needed to turn this game around and get down the other end sharpish with 60 minutes now gone. With other scores coming in there were now four clubs including Boro on 51 points!
Johnson picked up a war wound colliding into Whickham but shook it off after a minute gingerly getting up to his feet, hope was that maybe it was just a bit of time management to take the sting out of the game. Mixed news came in as Luton were now 3-1 up against Blackburn but Leeds had put four past Charlton meaning that Boro had to be staying up bar a late Charlton rally of Biblical proportions.
Saville then hit a long-range effort swerving wide in a rare Boro foray. Friend cleared a Whickham free-kick assisted by Johnson in hoofing it clear which led to a Boro free-kick upfield after Britt received a quick knock-on pass from a throw-in down the flank. Johnson delivered the kick but it didn’t beat the first man in what was a really poor disheartening effort. The second drinks break on 69 minutes then allowed Boro a breather where I’m sure that Leeds scoreline would be communicated to the players to ease the pressure and maybe allow them to play with more freedom.
As the sides resumed Boro saw their nemesis Adthe Nuhui depart for former Boro Striker Dean’s son Josh Windass enter the fray. McNair was then cleaned out by Luongo but Boro were adjudged to have taken advantage of the play-on rule and so the restart was via a drop ball in what had been a refreshingly lenient Refereeing performance by the Aussie Ref Gillette.
The hot and cold Johnson nicked the ball and delivered it into Britt whose effort went just wide for a goal kick. At the other end, Fry then had to react quickly to clear the danger and as Dijksteel was barged by Whickham it was Fry again who had to be alert. Bannon fired in the resultant corner, cleared out, Spence set off but Murphy broke up play and spread it out to Bannon and as the ball came into the box Stojaoivic was battered in mid-air by Windass for a Boro free-kick. Tav had run his heart out and then came off for Lewis Wing He had spent a lot of the game shadowing Bannon and presumably, Wing would now take on that minder role. Lee then came off for the Owls for ex-Boro player Adam Reach on 80 minutes.
Wednesday won a free-kick midway into the Boro half delivered in by Bannon and headed out for a corner by Dijksteel. Murphy then took the corner aimed at Iorfa and Whickham but once cleared out it came back in via Harris skinning Johnson on the byline to pick out Murphy who deflected his shot wide across the goalmouth, phew!
As the pressure from the Owls grew another corner was fired in by new taker Murphy but Lees headed it over and out under pressure from Saville. The lack of a contract didn’t seem to prevent George Friend from expressing his annoyance at Gillette at what he saw as an infringement on Saville by Lees plus it delayed another few seconds. Five minutes now remaining!
Wing cheekily tried to find Britt but Wildsmith was equal to it and read the intention. An interception saw Boro get a half chance and broke but Johnson blew his lines by hitting it across the goalmouth and well wide. Incredibly seconds later Johnson more than made amends. He ran onto a beautifully launched ball from Fry out of defence down the left-wing and chipped the ball across to Britt who brought it down as it skipped off the surface, swivelled, turned, and hit a scuffed shot which spun up and over Wildsmith somehow managing to curl back on itself in a mid-air slow-motion display to squirm its way forwards and into the Wednesday net to ensure safety, 1-2 to Boro with just one minute of normal time remaining. At the death, Harris broke for Wednesday but Dijksteel was ready for him and cleared the danger, and two one to Boro it remained.
That’s it now all over and no need to worry about Wigan and any deductions. MOM in what may be his last game was George Friend who marshalled the defence and was on top of everything he had to deal with and led by example throughout.