Barnsley fell to a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in the Sky Bet Championship on Wednesday evening.
Goals in either half from Andraz Sporar and Matt Crooks were enough to secure all three points for Neil Warnock’s side on a disappointing night at the Riverside Stadium.
We had a glorious chance to take an early lead in the opening exchanges when Clarke Oduor capitalised on a loose backpass from Sol Bamba, but his effort struck the foot of the post as our hosts breathed a sigh of relief.
Shortly after, Brad Collins was called into action as Boro broke at pace and Sporar fired a low shot across goal that was expertly tipped away before being smothered.
Middlesbrough looked dangerous down the flank and Collins was forced to make a smart stop at his near post to thwart Marcus Tavernier after he had cut in on his left foot.
The deadlock was broken inside 20 minutes, however, as Sporar leapt highest to head home Paddy McNair’s inswinging cross after the Reds only half-cleared a corner.
Boro continued to swarm forward at will and, but for a combination of poor communication and poor finishing, would have added to their tally before the interval.
Duncan Watmore came closest to doubling the hosts’ advantage when he latched onto the ever-influential Sporar’s through ball but Will Hondermarck – who excelled in an unfamiliar centre-back role – was on hand to block his effort.
HALF-TIME: Middlesbrough 1-0 Barnsley
A tactical tweak at the break saw Hondermarck move into central midfield as we changed to a 3-5-2 system, with Jordan Williams deployed at left centre-back.
However, Middlesbrough still posed a threat and Martin Payero stung the hands of Collins with a long-range drive before Crooks launched one over the bar moments later.
The Reds had a good opening soon after as Cauley Woodrow tested Joe Lumley from distance and Callum Brittain’s follow-up was also blocked by the Boro 'keeper before Aaron Leya Iseka blazed high and wide.
Prior to the hour mark, Payero raced clear and squared for Watmore who inexplicably turned his effort over the bar unmarked from six-yards when it appeared harder to miss.
Victor Adeboyejo was introduced with 20 minutes remaining and was immediately in the thick of things as he linked up well with Oduor before being thwarted by Lumley.
Not long after, Obbi Oularé entered the fray for his first Reds appearance as we looked for more options in the final third.
As Barnsley pressed forward in search of a late leveller, Oduor drilled cross was laid off first time by Adeboyejo, but Woodrow couldn’t get his effort on target from the edge of the box.
But with little over two minutes remaining, Middlesbrough sealed victory when Crooks nodded in from close range.
REDS XI: Collins (GK), Hondermarck (Oularé, 76), Helik, Moon, Brittain, Gomes, Styles (Palmer, 61), J Williams, Oduor, Woodrow (C), Leya Iseka (Adeboyejo, 71).
Not used: Walton (GK), B Williams, Vita, Frieser.
BORO XI: Lumley (GK), Tavernier, Payero, Sporar (Ikpeazu, 65), Peltier, Howson (C), McNair, Watmore (Hernandez, 85), Bamba, Crooks, Jones.
Not used: Daniels (GK), Olusanya, Siliki, Kokolo, Coburn.