THEY jinx its all over… it is now!
With perfect timing Boro shattered their long standing Hillsborough hoodoo to take the heat off Aitor Karaka and shore up sagging morale.
Adam Reach netted in a one sided first half that Boro bossed then after a brief Owls revival and deflected equaliser Aitor Karanka made some decisive substitutions and in a final flourish Diego Fabbrini and Cristhian Stuani wrapped up a 3-1 win.
Given the mood around the club – even the boss was prompted to issue a “don’t panic” message in the build up – Wednesday was the last place most Boro fans wanted to go.
Stunned Boro stars can barely believe they have won at Wednesday
Hillsborough is scattered with the debris of broken dreams for us. We never get the lickings of a dog there. Everyone knows that. Even Woody. Boro have lost six of the last seven at the imposing old ground – the win in that run was the night Adam Johnson ran rings around them and Sean St Ledger came on for his debut in a 3-1 victory at the start of what was shaping up to be a promotion season under Gareth Southgate.
Before that you have to go way back almost 20 years to a 1-0 Premier League win in October 1995 to find any EIOing, and that was thanks to a late Craig Hignett penalty.
As well as that it haunts Boro supporters thanks to two painful relegations being sealed there, one with Carlton Palmer stood pointing over a badly injured Jamie Pollock accusing him of feigning.
And then there was the heartbreak of Steve Claridge scoring in the League Cup final replay against Leicester. That still stings a bit.
In fact the first trip to Hillsborough was a 6-1 defeat in the FA Cup in 1895 so it fair to say it has never been a happy hunting ground. As far as Boro are concerned the Indian sign is so powerful the ground may as well have been build on an old native American sacred burial ground.
So who you gonna call? Jinx-busters. Never was there a better time to smash a traditional “typical Boro” hoodoo. Some sections of supporters have started sniping. At new players; at old players; at selection, tactics and substitutions; ultimately at the manager. Things don’t feel healthy. So the win was important politically as much as mathematically.
Fittingly some of the goals came from players who had been hammered between the groaning when the team-sheet came out. Much maligned Adam Reach had a lively first half and got the opener (although admittedly after missing a sitter); Stuani (who”should never be played on the right” apparently) netted; and David Nugent (seen in some quarters as a disappointing signing and transformed the game and claimed two assists in a cultured cameo. Job done.
That’s not right: Cristhian Stuani gets a third goal in a week from the flank
It was a timely and important result that hopefully will change the doom-laden dynamics inside the super-heated Boro bubble.
Boro went into the game under mounting pressure and in desperate need of a result and a performance to shore up seeping spirit. They kicked off with only four league games gone but the mood music has shifted from upbeat August anthem to an ominous funereal dirge coloured more by off the pitch bum notes than results.
One defeat in six was far from a disaster as new players bed in and are instilled with Aitor’s ideology but the bar has been raised by summer spending so there is less room for error while the manager – “the best signing of the summer” a month ago – has invited terrace pressure on himself by putting his ruthless man-management in the public eye.
So, now was a really good time for a sequence shattering result at Hillsborough. Hopefully it will relieve some tension and make the early season stats look far brighter – Boro are two points better off now than this point last year when we had already lost three leagues games. Now Boro can go into the last few days of the transfer window and into the international break in a brighter mood.
Defeat – even if is is historically ordained and was pencilled in by most the day the fixtures came out – would have been a nightmare and sparked two weeks of toxic squabbling and battle lines would be drawn up.
BORO fans are finally starting to see what new boys David Nugent and Cristhian Stuani can do.
The expensively recruited strike-force started on the bench again leaving some fans scratching their heads and asking exactly why the boss would spend £7.6m and not start them – but when they were thrown in fray in the second half they transformed the game and answered that particular question emphatically.
And why wouldn’t they? They both have the top flight pedigree to flourish in the Championship. One has a goal rate of better than one in three in this league. The other has been banging them in La Liga and Serie A for five years and is a Uruguay international. It was only a matter of time before they were eased into action.
Marksman man hug: dynamic duo Nugent and Stuani embrace
Up to now they have been bit-part players in the league. Stuani has been an absolute goal machine in the early rounds of the Capital One Cup so far with four goals in his outings at Oldham and Burton but he has only started once in the league – against Bristol City – and failed to impress in what was a limp display by the whole team.
The same goes for Nugent. He too looked laboured in the disappointing defeat to the Robins, a game which was as poor a platform to demonstrate your range of talents as you could wish on anyone.
But at Hillsborough the pair looked sharp from the moment they came on. They offered movement, deft touches and an instinct to break forward and scythe through an increasingly terrified defence. They showed signs of working well together and intelligent understanding of what runs the other would make. It is early days but the win at Wednesday suggested the new big ticket frontmen will be major assets to the squad.
Wednesday had rallied after the break and the first half cakewalk had been transformed into a spirited slug-fest in and around the Boro box. For a 15 minute spell after Nemesis Nuhui came on – the outsize Owls striker looks like an extra from Game of Thrones – battling Boro had to dig deep and work hard in defence and then the Owls .
But the timely introduction of the two new boys up front offered an out-ball with a serious cutting edge and gave Boro the ability to exploit the space the Owls were leaving as they pushed more men forward.
Within a very short time the pair ripped open the home defence several times, relieved the pressure at the back and changed the shape of the game. Which is exactly what you want to do when you make substitutions. Which will have shown some people that the manager does actually know what game management is about.
Nugent was particularly impressive. He slotted straight into the tempo of the game and looked every inch a Championship veteran. He was aware of the movement of his team-mates off the ball and made his first touch count.
He smoothly collected, swivelled and switched a ball into his feet to send Diego Fabbrini wriggling free to slip his effort under the keeper and in a sublime bit of awareness he deftly nodded on a ball out of defence over the last man to send Stuani racing clear to slot a low angled ball home.
And Stuani added pace and power with his runs down the channels and sure first touch. He has a trick or two as well . At one point when weaving in from the right he twisted and turned his man so comprehensively the defender may as well have been on spin cycle.
Stuani has scored three goals in a week and five so far and every one of them has been different. He is certainly no one trick pony. He has shown us every shade of the striker’s palette so far and a pleasing picture is starting to emerge.
Right now they are both impressive options from the bench – and soon they will be starting and that will give Boro a potent front end.
More of those kind of match-changing interventions please Aitor.