Reds 1 (Davies 45)
Three points and a clean sheet – the perfect way to start off the season – and that’s what it was at Oakwell. Craig Davies’ first-half strike separated the two sides, a typical clinical finish from the big frontman who looks even stronger and sharper than last season.
As you would expect, it was a fast and frantic start with both sets of fans in tremendous voice after another summer of anticipation
Cywka’s delivery was chested into the path of Mellis by Harewood but the midfielder slipped as he attempted a connection on two minutes.
Boro replied when Bailey snatched wide and shouts for a penalty were turned away when Ledesma went over Mellis in the box.
With little over quarter of an hour gone, Foster nodded over from a free-kick moments before Matty Done was forced off through injury – Etuhu replaced him out wide.
The tempo slowed up slightly and it took another 15 minutes for a chance, which fell the way of the Reds. Craig Davies picked up possession on the edge of the box from Mellis but the big frontman fired straight at Steele.
A sweeping move then saw Cywka strike over after Stones broke well down the right before allowing Mellis to slide in for the Pole.
Leadbitter drilled wide from a 25-yard free-kick as the away side responded but Gonzalez was still to be tested as the first half drew to a close.
But the Reds’ first goal of their 125th anniversary campaign came on the stroke of half time from Craig Davies. Perkins showed tidy feet before slotting through into the area for Davies who hammered into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
With three minutes gone after the interval Perkins sent Davies away once more but this time down the left, however Steele did well to deny the striker his second with a smart save when one-on-one.
Two minutes later and Scott Golbourne flighted a delightful corner onto the head of a storming Stephen Foster but his powered nod down drifted just wide of a stranded Steele’s left-hand upright.
The football was now flowing and Jacob Mellis thumped low only to see his 25-yarder go wide following great build-up play from Kelvin Etuhu and David Perkins.
Boro responded with a long-range strike and in thunderous fashion but Gonzalez’s first save of the match was a solid one. The away side were becoming increasingly frustrated and it simply looked like the Red wanted it more, particularly in midfield with Perkins running his socks off.
With 15 to play Steele came to the rescue of his side when he denied Davies a wonder-goal with a wonder-save. Davies was after his second when Harewood slipped a neat ball through down the left. The tiring Mellis was replaced by Dawson on 76 as Hill attempted to harden the midfield.
Stones took matters into his own hands with a fantastic run down the right before teeing up Davies but again Steele was inspired between the Boro sticks as he tipped wide with a strong right hand on 83 minutes.
Middlesbrough really should have levelled a minute later when Halliday was fond completely unmarked and all the goal to aim at but he volleyed straight at a grateful Gonzalez. Again, Mowbray was jumping in the air but Scott Wiseman denied his side an equaliser after Gonzalez failed to take a cross and Bailey hammered in a shot.
Davies did well to create an opportunity as the Reds broke by using his immense strength, when he sent in a cross for Harewood the big striker was denied a debut goal by a fine block from Williams.
A minute into four added on Gonzalez pulled off a wonderful stop to deny Hoyte when a loose ball fell kindly for the right-back on the edge of the box.
It was end-to-end stuff on the dying minutes and when it seemed Davies was through but Middlebsrough broke and saw Emnes destined to score but for an amazing last-ditch tackle from Scott Wiseman. What a performance. What a result.
Reds: David Gonzalez, Scott Golbourne, Scott Wiseman, Stephen Foster, John Stones, Matt Done (Etuhu 16), David Perkins (c), Craig Davies, Jacob Mellis (Dawson 76), Tomasz Cywka, Marlon Harewood
Subs:Lukas Lidakevicius, Bobby Hassell, Lee Collins, Chris Dagnall.
Middlesbrough: Jason Steele, Marvin Emnes, Justin Hoyte, Julio Arca (Reach 59), Jonathan Woodgate, Grant Leadbitter, Rhys Williams (c), Faris Haroun (Zemmama 59), Emanuel Jorge Ledesma, George Friend (Halliday 59), Nicky Bailey.
Subs:, Seb Hines, Andrew Halliday, Luke Williams, Richard Smallwood, Jason Leutwiler
Referee: James Adcock
Assistant Referees: Paul Hodskinson & David Richardson
Fourth Official: David Storrie
Att: 12, 203 (3872)