Middlesbrough 1 Sheffield Wednesday 4 – Rampant Owls deliver imperious first half performance to thump Garry Monk’s old club
Sheffield Wednesday scored four first half goals as they thrashed Garry Monk's old club Middlesbrough 4-1 at the Riverside Stadium.
Monk's charges made a dream start, taking the lead in the fifth minute after Boro midfielder Adam Clayton headed into his own net following a Barry Bannan corner.
Things got even better a minute later for the Owls when Dominic Iorfa doubled their lead. The big defender rose highest to nod in Bannan's free kick to claim his first goal of the season.
Middlesbrough were rattled and Fletcher threatened to grab a third. His downward header from Kadeem Harris's cross was turned down by Darren Randolph.
Anfernee Dijksteel tried his luck from long range in the 14th minute as Boro looked to reduce their arrears but Keiren Westwood was equal to it.
But then Wednesday were caught napping from a corner, with McNair lashing an unstoppable right foot half volley past Westwood after the midfielder shrugged off the attentions of Sam Hutchinson.
After a lacklustre start, McNair's goal visibly lifted Boro and Lewis Wing tested the reflexes of Westwood after good approach play.
Reach restored the Owls' two-goal cushion. The attacking midfielder ended his seven-month goal drought, drilling a fierce shot into the bottom corner after receiving Atdhe Nuhiu's pass. It was Reach's first goal since February and his third in a row against Boro.
Oozing confidence and quality, Wednesday looked hungry to score more and Julian Börner headed over after more woeful defending from Boro from a set play.
Fletcher continued his fine start to the season by bagging a fourth. The former Sunderland man outjumped Boro skipper Dael Fry to nod home Reach's super centre and notch his fifth goal in nine league starts.
There were some boos from the home faithful as Reach fired over from just outside the penalty area. Indeed, some headed for the exit door after Fletcher's fourth.
The only disappointment for the Owls in a memorable opening 45 minutes was that Hutchinson sustained a knock and had to be replaced by Massimo Luongo.
It is the first time Wednesday have scored four in a half since December 2014 when they famously trounced Leeds United at Hillsborough.
Boro made a double change at the interval, bringing on Daniel Ayala and Marcus Browne in an attempt to spark them into life.
Ryan Shotton, who switched to left-back to accommodate Ayala, swung in a cross to the back post which Marvin Johnson headed back into the six-yard back into the path of Britt Assombalonga, who somehow dragged wide with the goal at his mercy.
Assombalonga, Middlesbrough's £15m club-record signing, spurned another glorious opportunity just before the hour mark. The striker beat the offside trap, latching on to Johnson's through ball and rounded the advancing Westwood only to shoot into the side-netting.
It was a big wake up call for Wednesday, who responded in a positive fashion.
After Fletcher headed over Reach's cross from the right, Moses Odubajo was then brilliantly denied in a one-on-one situation by Randolph after fine approach play involving Fletcher, Reach and Luongo.
Substitute Sam Winnall was also thwarted by Randolph late on as the Owls pushed for a fifth.
But victory nudged the Owls up to seventh, just one point outside the play-off zone, and it was a sweet win for Monk on his return to the Riverside.
Middlesbrough: Randolph; Dijksteel, Shotton, Fry, Bola (Ayala HT); Clayton (Browne HT), McNair, Wing; Johnson (Walker 73), Fletcher, Assombalonga. Substitutes: Tavernier, Howson, Saville, Pears.
Owls: Westwood; Odubajo, Iorfa, Borner, Palmer; Reach, Hutchinson (Luongo 41), Bannan, Harris (Fox 89); Nuhiu (Winnall 80), Fletcher. Substitutes: Dawson, Pelupessy, Lee, Murphy.
Referee: James Linington (Newport)