KEITH Hill went for a cycle ride with his young son on Saturday night understandably satisfied with a good day at the office.
Family man Hill came under fire last season when Barnsley slipped down the table after a frustrating finish to their Championship campaign.
Injuries and the sale of key players certainly didn’t make life easy, but Hill kept the Reds up and has worked tirelessly over the summer to entice free agents to Oakwell on a shoestring budget.
And, even though injuries have ravaged the Reds before a ball was kicked in anger, Hill’s ambitious charges have still started the season with a bang.
Last weekend’s 4-3 extra-time Capital One Cup win over his former club Rochdale was followed by an impressive home win over promotion-tipped Boro on Saturday.
Craig Davies’ second goal in as many games did the trick, although victory came at a cost with winger Matty Done ruled out for up to as four weeks with the knee injury he sustained from a crunching challenge by Boro forward Faris Haroun.
Done hobbled off after just 17 minutes, with teenage midfielder Paul Digby having picked up a thigh strain in the pre-match warm-up. Friday’s training session saw Jimmy McNulty tweak his hamstring so Hill had to shuffle his pack with Scott Wiseman paired with Stephen Foster in central defence.
But new signings Marlon Harewood and David Gonzalez impressed, the latter on his debut, as did the excellent Davies who looked hungry for goals all afternoon.
The former Chesterfield hitman could have bagged a hat-trick had it not been for a string of fine saves from Boro keeper Jason Steele.
“We’re really down on numbers, especially when you consider the amount of injuries we had before this game,” reflected Hill.
“Matty Done is a massive loss to us, he’s going to be out for two to four weeks at least, and Jimmy McNulty is not going to play until after the international break - he’s out for up to four to six weeks.
“You need players available. It’s unfortunate we’re picking up these injuries, but we were fortunate we could get Marlon Harewood into the building.
“It would be great to have Marlon, Craig Davies, Chris Dagnall and Mido all available, that’s a real manager’s headache but it’s a great headache.
“It’s very difficult to legislate for the type of injuries we’re incurring, but I think the performance merited the result.
“Middlesbrough are an excellent side, but I thought we fully deserved the victory.
“On another day Craig Davies would have had the hat-trick ball, but their keeper was exceptional. He made some outstanding saves.
“We created a lot of goalscoring opportunities. It was incredible effort from the players.”
Boro were bright starters and Emanuel Ledesma and Grant Leadbitter both fired wide within the first six minutes.
And it was not until the 28th minute, having controlled a lot of the possession, that the Reds had their first shot on goal. Davies drilling a left-foot shot at Steele.
But that chance lifted the Reds and Polish playmaker Cywka rifled over with a powerful right-foot shot and Davies his goalbound free-kick deflected for a corner.
A minute before the break Leadbitter fired a free-kick just wide of the left upright, but it was Davies who broke the deadlock for the Reds.
Cywka and stand-in skipper David Perkins combined well, with the latter laying up Davies to find the bottom left corner with a sweet strike.
Four minutes after the restart Davies forced a smart stop from Steele at his near post and then Foster headed over at the back post from Scott Goldbourne’s swirling corner.
Jacob Mellis shot wide of Steele’s right upright, before Nicky Bailey tried his luck from distance, only for Gonzalez to make a fine low save.
Leadbitter skewed a right-foot shot wide in the 72nd minute but it was the Reds who had the better chances to win it late on.
Steele denied Davies with a brilliant fingertip save over his own crossbar, substitute Stephen Dawson shot over with his first touch and then Harwood had a shot charged down on the edge of the penalty area.
Davies forced another good save from Steele while at the other end Harewood threw himself in front of sub Merouane Zemmama to make a superb block with two minutes remaining.
Steele denied Davies with two more saves at the death and Wiseman got in a timely-challenge to prevent Marvin Emnes from equalising in injury time.
Hill said: “We worked hard for each other, passed the ball about in the right areas of the pitch and created good opportunities.
“I’m over the moon with the players’ efforts and their intelligent energy as well.
“It was cagey first half but we created the real standout opportunity which Craig Davies dispatched.
“And in the second half we exploited the space left by Middlesbroigh for a counter-attack.
“We should have maybe sealed the deal a little earlier on.
“There’s a lot of in that performance to show what we’re trying to achieve at this football club.”