Middlesbrough verdict: How Josh Coburn’s introduction against Sheffield Wednesday gave Neil Warnock's side a different dimension
ANALYSIS : Joe Nicholson assesses Middlesbrough’s 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday.
It was a goal which deserved a greater response.
As the ball was crossed into the penalty area by Neeskens Kebano, Middlesbrough’s teenage striker Josh Couburn rose the highest.
The 18-year-old had only been on the pitch for eight minutes after coming off the bench against Sheffield Wednesday – his second senior appearance for the Teessiders.
With the game locked at 1-1, the fixture needed a lift. Coburn was the one who provided it as his towering header was guided into the net.
Neil Warnock and his staff leapt up and cheered. This game meant more to the Boro boss given his Sheffield United connections.
But just imagine if the goals had been scored in front of a full Riverside. It was still a memorable moment for the academy graduate.
Duncan Watmore made it 3-1 to put more gloss on the win, after Yannick Bolasie had opened the scoring for the hosts.
Wednesday’s survival hopes were left hanging by a thread.
With options limited due to injuries, Warnock named the same side which started at Rotherham, with Grant Hall keeping his place despite suffering a head injury at the New York Stadium.
That meant midfielder Connor Mallley was harshly left out despite his impressive performance from the bench against The Millers.
But despite a sluggish start, Boro took the lead in the 20th minute when Bolasie dispossessed Wednesday defender Julian Borner and fired the ball home via a deflection off Tom Lees.
Both sides were wasteful in possession during the first half and Wednesday, who hadn’t taken a point from a losing position all season, eventually drew level.
The goal came when Andre Green beat Paddy McNair in the area and was fouled by Marc Bola. Josh Windass converted the subsequent penalty.
Coburn’s header proved decisive before Watmore stabbed home a third following a corner.
Due to a lack of options, Boro once again started in a 3-4-2-1 system, with a back three of McNair, Hall and Marc Bola.
The Teessiders tried to play more passes out from the back than they have done previously this season, yet their attempted balls into the channel were often wasteful.
Warnock’s side weren’t able to get their creative players on the ball often enough in the first half, with their best chances coming from Wednesday’s defensive errors.
Boro were more assured in possession after the break, yet Coburn’s introduction on 65 minutes gave them a focal point.
Playing with a bandage around his head, Hall was once again excellent at the back for Boro.
The central defender was commanding in the air and swept up the danger which came his way.
At the other end Bolasie provided a creative spark and put regular pressure on the Wednesday defence, which led to the opener.
Boro will now travel to Luton next weekend for their penultimate game of the season.
Warnock’s side will then host Wycombe on the final day of the season in a fortnight.