Friday night, the Riverside Stadium almost full, Middlesbrough top of the division. It all worked last night.
Middlesbrough were too good and too clever for a Sheffield Wednesday side for whom this season will most likely be long and testing. Promoted last season, they need to survive to build, and in their hosts was a reminder that it can take time.
Middlesbrough have been out of the Premier League for almost three-and-a-half seasons now. Much can happen in that time, supporters find new hobbies, but last night was a reminder of what following a local football club can mean. The 28,229 who gave Mowbray – one of their own – and his players full backing will have reminded themselves as much as anyone as to how it feels.
There was too much quality for Dave Jones’ side, too much spirit. In Josh McCeachran they had the game’s outstanding player. The 19-year-old, on loan from Chelsea, has subtlety and deftness in his left foot. The home side took the lead when Emmanuel Ledesma fed Justin Hoyte on the right, and with one swing of his right foot, he arrowed the ball from 20 yards beyond the Wednesday goalkeeper.
The visitors equalised four minutes into the second-half. Gary Madine appeared off-side to everyone bar the man that mattered, the referee’s assistant, and at that point Jones and his men had a lifeline.
It had gone by the hour, when Scott McDonald prodded his shot goal wards and near the goal-line, and again seemingly in an off-side position Ishmael Miller put his side back in front. They needed a third, and it came with 14 minutes remaining, substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz heading home.
Middlesbrough: Steele; Hoyte, Woodgate (Hines 46), Bikey, Friend; Leadbitter, McCeachran; Ledesma, Emnes (Haroun 74), McDonald; Miller (Jutkiewicz 74)
Sheffield Wednesday Kirkland; Buxton, Llera, Gardner, Jones; Semedo, Corry (O’Grady 83); Bothroyd (Johnson 73), Barkley (McCeachran 83), Antonio; Madine
Referee: C Boyeson (E Yorkshire)