Date: 11th April 2010 at 8:32pm
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WEDNESDAY sunk to back-to-back defeats as Scott McDonald’s deflected first-half strike proved enough to give Middlesbrough the points in a close fought clash in Teeside.

Owls boss Alan Irvine said after the game that his men didn’t deserve to come away with nothing to show for their efforts.

And he was probably right, with a lacklustre game summed up in McDonald’s strike, which took a wicked deflection to ultimately win the game – but Wednesday left their travelling support worrying if they’ve got enough fight and quality to drag them out of the Championship relegation spots.

The Owls had enough of the ball to try and cause their in-form hosts problems, but the lack of quality and creative ideas in the final third cost Wednesday – something which has been all-too familiar this season.

It’s a worrying sign as Irvine’s men sit in the bottom three with three tough matches to go this season – starting with a huge Steel City derby against the Blades in S6 next Sunday.

One of the few plus points from the match was the return, and showing, of Jermaine Johnson, who was the only one who looked like he could break down the Boro defence on the day.

The Jamaican’s return could be timely, as he was thrown in to start after the late withdrawal of Leon Clarke, who was injured in the pre-match warm-up.

It was the only change to the Owls side that fell to a disappointing home defeat against Bristol City last time out, and Wednesday knew that they had to up their game if they were to leave Boro with anything to show for their efforts.

And it started quite well for the visitors as Darren Potter forced a good save from former Owl Brad Jones, while Johnson also came close with an acrobatic effort as Wednesday enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges.

The Owls had plenty of the ball in the first half, and for most of the match, but the lack of spark in a bland midfield failed to cause Boro too many problems.

As flowing and as open as the game was for large spells of the first 45 minutes, there wasn’t a huge amount for both goalkeepers to do.

JJ was Wednesday’s biggest threat by a long shot, but as in the trouble with the jet-heeled forward, his last touch or shot often lets him down – something which was evident with arguably Wednesday’s best effort of the first-half.

Marcus Tudgay, who produced another less-than-convincing display, slipped Johnson in and he seemed to beat his marker but couldn’t make a good connection when coming to shoot at goal.

Boro did come more into the game as it progressed but Owls stopper Lee Grant didn’t have too much to do.

If anything, Wednesday’s game plan looked to be working, even if they hadn’t found a way through Jones at the other end.

Leroy Lita and former Sunderland man Julio Arca both had half-chances in front of goal but the match seemed to be heading for a 0-0 stalemate at the interval.

That was until McDonald’s fortunate goal just minutes before the half-time whistle.

The hosts were enjoying more of the ball in the midfield and McDonald tried his luck on goal, only for the ball to strike Mark Beevers and leave Grant stranded as the ball bounced the other way and into the back of the net.

It wasn’t what Wednesday deserved, but it was one of those things where, for the teams at the bottom, the luck just isn’t going in the right direction.

Boro were certainly fortunate to be ahead at the break, and with Wednesday’s lack of creativity in attack, it looked like it required a special performance from the visitors in the second half to get anything from the game.

Half-Time: Boro 1-0 Wednesday

Wednesday needed to come flying out of the traps on the restart but instead, the match resumed in much the same manner, with Boro having more of the ball.

A second goal would have knocked the stuffing out of Wednesday and they looked pretty conservative in the opening ten minutes of the second half.

But Boro, too, looked to sit back on their lead, and the game started in a low tempo affair, something which couldn’t have suited the Owls.

Neither goalkeeper was tested, that was until the Owls hit the woodwork from a corner kick.

Some good play by Luke Varney on the left won a corner from Wednesday, and from Darren Potter’s kick, the Owls striker then headed an effort on to the bar, but Boro managed to clear the danger.

It should have buoyed the Owls, as it had for the strong travelling support behind the goal, but if anything it was Wednesday’s best effort in the entire match.

In fact Boro could well have doubled their advantage as they powered down the other end through former Blade Kyle Naughton, who saw his powerful drive well saved by Grant.

As the minutes ticked along nothing looked like changing, and so Irvine brought Etienne Esajas and Francis Jeffers on as he looked for more attacking options.

But they didn’t have the desired effect, and Boro hung on without having to do much over-time at the back as Wednesday went out with a whimper.

Let’s hope it’s not the same in the last three games.

Full-Time: Boro 1-0 Wednesday


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