Expectation levels on the rise again at the Riverside

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
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TEESSIDE expects again and while hope at the Riverside Stadium is not yet as high as when Middlesbrough hosted Sheffield Wednesday in 2012-13, levels are on the rise.

Boro, under the command of Tony Mowbray, saw off Wednesday 3-1 in front of the Sky cameras in November, 2012 to move top of the Championship table, albeit temporarily, in front of a bumper crowd of 28,229, their biggest attendance since returning to the second tier in 2009-10.

Back then, anything seemed possible – Boro triumphing thanks to goals from Justin Hoyte, Ishmael Miller and Lukas Jutkiewicz – but, by and large, it has been a tale of woe since.

Until now perhaps, with Boro heading into the game with the Owls on the back of a run of eight league wins in their past 11 matches spanning the end of last season and the start of the current one.

Despite an ultimately disappointing 2013-14, Boro’s home form, particularly their goals against record, was one of their more redeeming features.

Boro have only had their colours lowered there twice in the league – once this calendar year – with the Riverside not a happy hunting ground for Wednesday.

The Owls have yet to win here since Boro moved to their new home in August, 1995 with the South Yorkshire outfit’s last victory on Teesside coming back when they triumphed 2-0 at Ayresome Park on New Year’s Day 1991.

While Boro head coach Aitor Karanka is concentrating his recruitment on boosting his striking pool, he is set for a defensive fillip next week with England Under-21 centre-back Ben Gibson, 21, returning to first-team training.

He has been on the sidelines for a fortnight after suffering a hamstring strain in the first minute of Boro’s Championship opener with Birmingham but he is set to return ahead of schedule.