Soccer

Middlesbrough sweep aside struggling Sheffield Wednesday

Boro sit six points off the play-off places with six games to go.

Isaiah Jones helped Middlesbrough to victory
Isaiah Jones helped Middlesbrough to victory Isaiah Jones helped Middlesbrough to victory (Martin Rickett/PA)

Middlesbrough closed in on the Championship play-off places as they claimed a 2-0 victory over struggling Sheffield Wednesday.

Isaiah Jones’ deflected strike followed an own goal from Michael Ihiekwe as Michael Carrick’s side extended their unbeaten run to six games and moved to within six points of sixth-placed Norwich.

Wednesday’s defeat would have been even heavier had Boro’s Sam Greenwood not rolled a late penalty against the post, and the Owls find themselves two points adrift of safety in 23rd position.

After briefly threatening to turn things around, Danny Rohl’s side have now gone four games without a victory.

Wednesday had conceded six goals in their previous away game at Ipswich, but they made a decent start on Teesside and could have claimed the lead inside the opening four minutes.

Marvin Johnson was released down the left by a long ball from the back, but while the former Middlesbrough wing-back’s angled drive beat goalkeeper Seny Dieng, the ball shaved the outside of the far post.

Boro, who had claimed a creditable draw at Southampton on Good Friday, took time to get going, but Lewis O’Brien finally recorded the hosts’ first effort at goal midway through the first half.

The Nottingham Forest loanee attempted a curled effort from 25 yards, but the ball deflected wide off Barry Bannan.

The home side should really have claimed the lead six minutes before the interval, but while Jones was unmarked as he met Greenwood’s cross at the back post, he could only slice a wasteful shot wide from eight yards.

Two minutes later, Boro were celebrating taking the lead despite still having failed to record an effort on target.

Greenwood swung in a corner from the right, and when Emmanuel Latte Lath failed to make any contact with his attempted header, Ihiekwe could only deflect the ball past James Beadle and into his own net.

Ihiekwe’s bad day might well have got worse two minutes after the break, but while the defender looked to have caught O’Brien in the area, the referee waved away Boro’s spot-kick appeals.

O’Brien saw a shot blocked as Boro continued to press for a second goal, while at the other end Wednesday substitute Djeidi Gassama wasted a decent opening as he completely missed his kick while attempting to sweep home Pol Valentin’s cross.

Latte Lath fired wide midway through the second half, with Beadle saving from Greenwood a couple of minutes later, but Boro claimed a second goal to make the game safe with 17 minutes remaining.

Luke Ayling released Jones down the right, and the winger’s shot looped beyond Beadle thanks to a hefty deflection off Bannan.

Boro should have added a third goal with nine minutes left after Bannan was penalised for handling Ayling’s cross, but Greenwood’s side-footed penalty rebounded off the base of the left-hand post.