THE people of Teesside returned to the Riverside last night. It was a good job their football team remembered to turn up as well.
A crowd of 28,229 sang, danced, jumped up and down and then sang again as their team went top of the Championship, at least for a few hours.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means from Tony Mowbray’s side, but they surely did enough to convince a few thousand to come back soon.
You never know, those who stay away may miss a title-winning season under a man who has breathed life back into a football club that was on its knees.
Mowbray wanted to make a statement last night and he started with a front three of Scott McDonald, Marvin Emnes and Ishmael Miller. This was not a night for caution.
And it took just 12 minutes from the home side to take a lead.
It began with great play from Josh McEachran who, despite being under pressure in midfield, turned into space and played a ball to the feet of Emmanuel Ledesma, who had spotted the run of Justin Hoyte. The right-back collected a perfect pass from his team-mate who had threaded a ball through Wednesday’s defence.
And, with everyone expecting him to cross, Hoyte produced a quite marvellous swerving shot with the outside of his boot that left Chris Kirkland grasping for thin air.
“We are top of the League,” chanted the Boro fans. It’s been a while since that song has rung out on Teesside.
But as if a warning was needed that there was work still to be done, Jason Steele was called into action on 24 minutes when Jay Bothroyd shot from outside the box.
And then on half-an-hour McEachran, on loan from Chelsea, produced a moment of brilliance.
He took on four yellow shirts on a run that took him deep into the Wednesday penalty box, beating every single one with fancy footwork that was more Messi than Middlesbrough, only to run out of space to get off a proper shot.