Sheffield Wednesday Report: Owls 1 Middlesbrough 2
Injury-ravaged Sheffield Wednesday suffered a third successive Championship defeat, losing 2-1 to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough as the pressure grows on Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal.
The hosts, without 10 players through injury and suspension, looked on course to get back to winning ways when Ross Wallace fired them into a 30th minute lead.
But inconsistent Boro fought back in the second half to claim maximum points after strikes by Jonny Howson and Ryan Shotton.
Defeat leaves the Owls without a win in seven matches and there were some chants of 'We want Carlos out' towards the end.
With Glenn Loovens joining the Owls' growing injury list, Carlos Carvalhal handed Frederico Venancio his debut. The defender, on loan from Vitoria de Setubal until the end of the season, partnered Joost van Aken at the heart of their backline. Loovens sat-out the fixture because of a quad problem.
Daniel Pudil also returned at left-back, Sam Hutchinson came into midfield and Atdhe Nuhiu was given the nod up front. Morgan Fox, serving a one-match ban following his red card against Wolverhampton Wanderers last time out, Jacob Butterfield and Jordan Rhodes dropped out.
In the absence of Loovens, Hutchinson, making his first start in over two months after recovering from knee surgery, wore the captain's armband.
The Owls made most of the early running as Adam Reach, playing against his former club, dragged a left foot shot wide after a neat pass by Pudil.
Top-scorer Gary Hooper was left fuming after referee Peter Bankes ignored his penalty appeal in the eighth minute. The striker appeared to have his shirt pulled by Fabio da Silva but Bankes was unmoved. TV replays suggested Hooper had a strong case.
But Boro, who have also under-performed this season despite a significant financial outlay, grew into the contest and the lively Stewart Downing fed Martin Braithwaite and the forward's cross was palmed away by Joe Wildsmith.
And Wednesday survived a huge let off in the 18th minute when Patrick Bamford rose unmarked to meet Cyrus Christie's fine delivery only to steer his header off target. The hosts defence switched off, expecting the linesman to raise his flag.
Grant Leadbitter tried his luck from long range but Wildsmith was equal to it as the visitors kept pressing for the opener.
Slightly against the run of play, Wednesday opened the scoring on the half hour mark. It was a slick, well-worlked
Reach pulled the back to Hooper, who squared to Wallace and the winger rifled in his second goal of the campaign.
The Owls were then forced to soak up a lot of Boro pressure and Liam Palmer was cautioned after bringing down Britt Assombalonga just outside the penalty area.
Jonny Howson hooked over following a clever knockdown by Bamford as Boro continued to threaten.
It took some excellent last-ditch defending by Joe Wildsmith and Pudil to keep the visitors at bay. Wildsmith rushed off his line to prevent Braithwaite from rounding him and tapping home and Pudil later produced a fine block to repell Assombalonga's attempt
Moments later, Assombalonga side-footed wide from an acute angle after shrugging off the attentions of Pudil to add to Boro's frustrations.
Wednesday rallied before the interval and Palmer raced on to David Jones' diagonal pass and saw rasping right foot shot well parried by Randolph.
Soon after the re-start Pudil clipped in a peach of cross which Nuhiu, on the stretch, was unable to turn in under pressure from Gibson.
Jones sent Pudil scampering away down the left flank and the full-back let fly from 30 yards. His dipping strike flew agonisingly over.
The pendulum swung Middlesbrough's way and Wildsmith came to the hosts rescue in the 55th minute, making a crucial save to thwart Braithwaite from 10 yards. The Boro forward should have scored.
Van Aken was cautioned for upending Bamford near Wednesday's penalty area but Braithwaite was wasteful from the resulting free-kick.
Boro were dominating possession and territory and Assombalonga had a goal disallowed for offside.
It was no surprise Carvalhal, who was back in his technical area after completing a one-match touchline ban, brought on Butterfield in an attempt to stem the tide.
But Garry Monk's side kept pressing and were awarded a penalty when Butterfield tripped Bamford. It was a definite spot-kick but Wildsmith superbly dived to his left to foil Grant Leadbitter from 12 yards.
Boro quickly recycled possession and Howson's speculative shot deceived Wildsmith, who will feel disappointed he didn't keep it out.
It was end-to-end and Reach's header was saved by Randolph before Bamford's cross clipped the crossbar.
With seven minutes remaining, Boro completed a stunning second half fightback. Defender Shotton rose highest to glance in Downing's corner to send the away end into raptures.
Jordan Rhodes blazed over late on but, in truth, the Owls were second best in the second period and deserved to lose to Middlesbrough for the fourth match in a row.
Owls: Wildsmith; Palmer, Venancio, van Aken, Pudil (Joao 81); Wallace (Butterfield 65), Jones, Hutchinson, Reach; Hooper, Nuhiu. Substitutes: Dawson, Matias, Baker, Abdi.
Boro: Randolph; Christie, Shotton, Gibson, Fabio; Leadbitter, Howson; Braithwaite (Johnson 64), Bamford (Gestede 82), Downing (Tavernier 90), Assombalonga. Substitutes: Konstantopoulos, Friend, Ayala, Fletcher.