Preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs Middlesbrough
This game had promised to offer serious drama. A former Middlesbrough manager in the dugout for Sheffield Wednesday and Neil Warnock’s return to the boyhood rivals Sheffield Wednesday, which always proves to make an intense atmosphere. Unfortunately that failed to be the case, with COVID proving to be a sticking point for fans and atmosphere. Meanwhile, Tony Pulis was sacked last night bringing that interest to an end.
Yet there is still a lot of intrigue around this game, as Neil Thompson’s first in charge as temporary manager, Sheffield Wednesday’s poor form that has them 23rd in the league and their startling discipline record. The game could prove to be full of drama despite the pitfalls.
Sheffield Wednesday's Season So Far:
Sheffield Wednesday has played 21 games so far this season winning 4, drawing 7 and losing 10. This season long poor form will be of serious concern for Sheffield Wednesday as they have struggled under two well respected managers thus far. Sheffields 0.6 points per game so far this season is nothing short of relegation form.
Interestingly they have been relatively defensively resolute so far this season, possibly thanks to the influence of Pulis over his 10 game reign, they have only conceded 22 goals in 21 games, a respectable 1.05 goals conceded per game, which is the 2nd best defensive record in the bottom half of the league.
Unfortunately their lack of goals is what has cost them so far this season, failing to hit the net more than 12 times in 21 games, scoring 0.6 goals per game.
There is a blatant difference between the goals scored and conceded by Sheffield Wednesday, which will need to be repaired quickly if they have any hopes of saving themselves from the drop.
Sheffield Wednesday's Recent Form:
In the last 5 games Sheffield Wednesday earned 1 win and a draw, losing the other three, giving Sheffield Wednesday 0.8 points per game. This is a mark up from the average record for their whole season so far however if the sixth oldest game is included, a loss against Norwich it shows a small improvement on their season average to 0.66 points per game.
Sheffield Wednesday need an upturn in form and they need to find it sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, temporary manager Neil Thompson will see this as an opportunity to prove himself. This game is growing into one that may catch Middlesbrough unaware and trip them up.
Sheffield Wednesday Manager: Neil Thompson
Many Boro fans would have looked forward to a match against former manager, Tony Pulis. However after a dramatic turn of events, last night the Newport-born manager has had his contract terminated after just 10 games in charge. The board at Sheffield Wednesday had hoped for an upturn in form, when it failed to come and despite the potential for squad changes in the January transfer window, Tony Pulis was sacked.
The team is now searching for a replacement for the 62 year old manager, with Jose Morais, a former deputy to Jose Mourinho, being one of the names recently reported. Whoever is brought in to lead the team, will have a job to do at the club as they currently find themselves in 23rd place which is considered unacceptable by Sheffield Wednesday.
Neil Thompson will be a relatively unknown figure to most Boro supporters. He spent the majority of his playing career in the north of England, including stints with Scarborough and York City where he made 269 and 30 appearances respectively. The majority of his career may have been in the lower leagues, but he was near constant figure for the majority of teams he played in making a total of 590 appearances and an impressive 69 goals from defence.
He joined Sheffield Wednesday in 2011 and has occupied a number of roles across the club and as such is respected within its ranks. He held first team roles under Garry Monk and Tony Pulis respectively, indicating that he may well stay at the club again under the next manager.
Despite the majority of his career occurring as a coach or player he has spent 5 years in a managerial role; as a player-manager at York City, Scarborough and Boston United between 1999-2004. Though whether he can make it the jump up, after such a long time out of such a role, remains to be seen.
Top Goalscorer: Josh Windass (3)
Nothing epitomises Sheffield Wednesday’s issue in front of goal like top goalscorer Josh Windass, who scores a goal once every 5 goals. This rate of goalscoring is worse than Britt Assombalonga or Chuba Akpom and Middlesbrough have had goalscoring issues of their own.
While Middlesbrough’s joint top goal scorers Britt Assombalonga and Duncan Watmore, may have only scored 1 goal more than Sheffield Wednesday’s marksman. Middlesbrough’s goals have come from a wider spread of players, with the team having 10 separate goal scorers in comparison to the 6 for Sheffield Wednesday. Of these goal scorers, Adam Reach and Jordan Rhodes will be the ones that are most familiar to Middlesbrough fans, with them both having a previous stint at the club.
Top Assist maker: Barry Bannan (3)
On the other hand, there is no doubting Barry Bannan’s talents and so he will have to be watched carefully as he could offer the spark that is the upturn in the Owl’s form.
Most Yellow Cards: Massimo Luongo/ Moses Odubajo (5)
To make matters worse, Sheffield Wednesday have had a disciplinary issue so far this season with getting 35 yellow cards with two players, Luongo and Odubajo getting 5 each.
Most Red Cards: Joost Van Aken/Josh Windass/ Kadeem Harris/ Liam Shaw/ Tom Lees (1)
The most alarming disciplinary issue though comes in the number of red cards given to Sheffield Wednesday with 5 separate players being ordered to take an early shower so far this season. This indicates that Middlesbrough will need to be careful in order to not find themselves with injuries to key players. Alternatively it could be favourable to Middlesbrough if a Sheffield Wednesday player sees red tonight.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Geoff Eltringham has been a referee since the age of 15, and was appointed to the National List of Referees in 2009/10 season. He has since become a select group 2 referee and Durham FA academy director.
While Middlesbrough have yet to been refereed by Eltringham so far this season, possibly due to him growing up in the Tyne and Wear area, but he has refereed over 400 games and as such will know how to be impartial in his rulings during the game.
However Sheffield Wednesday fans will not be happy to see the experienced referee take charge of the game after he gave a Sheffield Wednesday player a red card in their last meeting, while also awarding 16 fouls to the opposition, the joint 3rd most fouls given against them in any game.