Neil Thompson on giving Sheffield Wednesday some freedom

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY caretaker manager Neil Thompson’s intention to give Owls players a ‘little bit more freedom’ reaped a harvest by way of a precious three points against Middlesbrough on Tuesday - as the Hillsborough outfit scored more than one home goal in a game for the only time in 2020.

Sheffield Wednesday's Callum Paterson breaks the deadlock against Middlesbrough.

Thompson, who has taken interim charge following the shock sacking of Tony Pulis on Monday night, was thrust into the spotlight against Boro less than 24 hours later as he pitted his wits against Neil Warnock, who used to be his manager in his time as a player at Scarborough in the Eighties.

The 57-year-old's message to his players was to play with fewer inhibitions and his words allied to a 'few tweaks' paid off as the Owls claimed a cherished 2-1 victory against play-off chasing Boro.

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Goals from Callum Paterson and Liam Shaw gave Wednesday a two-goal buffer at the break as they hit two goals for the only occasion at Hillsboorugh in their last game of the calendar year at S6 and they defended stoutly after Duncan Watmore reduced the arrears early in the first half.

Reflecting on a crazy 24 hours, Thompson said: “It was my first day in management for about 18 years because I managed Boston in the early 2000s; a long time ago.

"But you are in and around the club and know the players and how it works and you have just got to trust with you do and give the players that little bit of freedom to do what they need to do, but also with a defensive structure.

“It has been difficult, but exciting and I was looking forward to it. It is football and you expect the unexpected, We have just got to prepare the team and no matter where you are, football never surprises you.

"I just wanted to get a bit of positivity into the players and I think we got that.

“With a lot of hard work put in, we came away with three points. It was tough game against a very good team. They are a good set of boys who work hard and want to do well.

“Certainly in the first half, I thought we played some really good stuff and posed Middlesbrough a lot of problems and then it flipped a bit in the second half when they got the early goal and put us on the back foot. But we defended and put our bodies on the line and got in blocks and put so much in the second half and managed to hang on.”

It was also a noteworthy night for academy graduate Liam Shaw, who scored his first senior goal for the club after being pushed into an advanced role.

Thompson added: “He is just coming into the team and has a big stature about him and has good energy.and technique and he is finding what the Championship is about because in under-23s football, he can sometimes get away with stuff and not get dispossessed.

"He did a lot of good things and got dispossessed (on Tuesday), but he kept going and shows he is a fit lad who wants to do well and that should be an example to all the academy players."

As to whether he wants to be a candidate for the full-time position, Thompson played a straight bat and says his only focus is on the here and now, with the Owls hosting Derby in start 2021 on New Year’s Day.

Thompson, who said that Joost van Aken and Adam Reach may be available for Friday’s game, said: "I have not even thought about it as it has happened so quick. It was just about trying to get the group right and I think we did that."