Tim Goode Middlesbrough's (from left to right) Jonathan Howson, George Saville, Adam Clayton and Danny Batth celebrate victory.
# On the rise
Boro beat Sheffield Wednesday to top Championship
Sheffield United, however, can regain top spot when they travel to Derby County on Saturday.

MIDDLESBROUGH MOVED TO the top of English football’s second-tier Championship with a 2-1 victory away to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.

Second-half goals in quick succession from Muhamed Besic and Brit Assombalonga at Hillsborough saw Boro, who had kicked-off in fourth place, leapfrog Sheffield United at the head of the table, with Adam Reach’s fine volley from the edge of the box eight minutes from time proving just a consolation effort for the hosts.

Sheffield United, however, can regain top spot when they travel to Derby County on Saturday.

Only the top two sides at the end of the regular season are guaranteed places in the lucrative Premier League, with the clubs finishing third to sixth contesting a series of play-off matches for the third and last promotion spot.

The result meant Boro bounced back from a 2-0 defeat by Nottingham Forest last time out and Besic told Sky Sports: “It was a really important win, especially after the last game when we played really badly against Nottingham Forest.

“We needed to prove ourselves and we did that today,” he added.

Before the match, Boro manager Tony Pulis was unhappy the fixture had been brought forward to Friday so it could be broadcast live on satellite television station Sky.

Pulis was adamant this put his side at a disadvantage as it meant he had just one day to work with his squad following the international break, with Boro losing nearly a full team of players to national service. 

“I think Sheffield Wednesday have had one player away, we’ve had 10,” Pulis told a press conference on Thursday. “This will be our first day back to do any work.”

But after a first half in Yorkshire where neither side dominated, Boro went ahead in the 49th minute.

Former England international Stewart Downing held the ball up on the right and then released the onrushing Jonny Howson, whose precise cut-back allowed Bosnia international Besic to shoot hard across Cameron Dawson.

Six minutes later, Boro were 2-0 up when Wednesday’s Tom Lees, the last defender in his own half, saw a misplaced pass fall to Besic, who then squared the ball to the unmarked Assombalonga.

Reach gave Wednesday hope of a fightback when, from a half-cleared free-kick, he struck a volley past Darren Randolph in the 82nd minute.

But despite a frantic goalmouth scramble in stoppage time, Wednesday — who remained in sixth place — were unable to force an equaliser and Boro clung on for victory.

© – AFP, 2018

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