It was another disappointing evening on the road for Barnsley as they fell to a 1-0 defeat against Middlesbrough at a rain-soaked Riverside Stadium on Wednesday.
Ashley Fletcher’s 54th minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides in a game that the Reds largely dominated but were once again left frustrated.
Barnsley started brightly and their neat, intricate play almost resulted in an opening goal within eight minutes as Jacob Brown saw his low drive blocked.
Moments later, however, it was the hosts’ turn to attack and it looked for all the world as though Britt Assombalonga would break the deadlock, but Ben Williams – reminiscent of his heroics at Walsall last season – somehow managed to get back and hook the ball clear off the line.
The Reds were playing some nice football and enjoying a lot of possession, and both Conor Chaplin and Luke Thomas had half chances from inside the area well blocked by a resolute ‘Boro backline.
Midway through the first half, Mike Bähre won the ball high up field and drove at a retreating home defence, but his low shot was comfortable for Aynsley Pears to smother.
For all Barnsley’s dominance, ‘Boro still looked dangerous on the attack and Sami Radlinger had to be at his very best to deny Assombalonga after he was picked out by striker partner Fletcher.
On the stroke of half-time, Cauley Woodrow had the Reds’ best chance of the opening period when he was played in by Thomas, but his ferocious effort from distance flew over the bar.
HALF-TIME: Middlesbrough 0-0 Barnsley
Gerhard Struber’s side came flying out of the blocks after the restart and Brown came agonisingly close to giving Barnsley the lead with a thunderous strike that cannoned off the crossbar.
But Boro were in front shortly after as Fletcher latched onto Assombalonga’s through ball before calmly rounding both Radlinger and the sliding Mads Andersen to slot home from one yard out.
The Reds continued to carve out opportunities and look lively as they searched for an equaliser, with Woodrow twice seeing efforts blocked before the hour mark.
Middlesbrough, however, were still dangerous on the counter and Radlinger was forced into action to deny Assombalonga after he raced clear.
The Austrian stopper was called upon yet again as the hosts broke from a Barnsley corner, and he made another fine stop to deny Hayden Coulson with 15 minutes remaining.
Once more, Radlinger had to be at his best to make two saves in quick succession, first to thwart Assombalonga at the far post before spreading himself excellently to divert Marcus Tavernier’s shot wide.
More half chances fell the visitors way, but they were unable to carve out a clear opening as 'Boro held on for all three points.
FULL-TIME: Middlesbrough 1-0 Barnsley
BORO XI: Pears, Dijksteel (Bola, 23), Ayala (c), Fry, Tavernier, Assombalonga, Fletcher, Howson, McNair (Clayton, 80), Wing, Coulson.
Not used: Mejias, Wood, O’Neill, Liddle, Hackney.
REDS XI: Radlinger, Cavaré, Diaby, Andersen, B Williams, Bähre (McGeehan, 69), Mowatt (c), Brown, Chaplin, Thomas, Woodrow.
Not used: Collins, J Williams, Sibbick, Dougall, Oduor, Schmidt.