Match report: Barnsley 3 Middlesbrough 2

Paddy McCourt weaves his way through the Boro defence before scoring Barnsley's opening goal.
Paddy McCourt weaves his way through the Boro defence before scoring Barnsley's opening goal.
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This was a real rollercoaster ride for Barnsley’s frustrated fans.

But finally they had something to shout about as David Flitcroft’s battling side came good with a much-needed win. One which lifted them off the foot of the Championship table.

However, the Reds got their victory the hard way, having looked like comfortable winners with a commanding 3-0 lead.

Boro hit back with two goals in the space of three minutes late on to leave a nerve-wracking finish.

Credit to the Reds, though, as they weathered the storm to pick up only their second win of the season and ended a run of six games without a victory.

“The result was key and the performance,” reflected a relieved Flitcroft.

“There’s no doubt about the quality of the goals we conceded, they were poor.

“But I was just delighted that they didn’t collapse at the final hurdle.

“We’re going to have hurdles and obstacles. We’re a team that have, at times, been undone by late goals.

“But the players stick at their task and the three points is more important than the goals conceded.”

And Flitcroft, whose side are now one point away from pulling themselves out of the relegation zone, remains confident that he and his players are treading the right path to find success.

“We know where we want to get to and we’ll look at the table at the end of the season if I’m here?” he added.

“But I certainly believe we’re on the right path. We’re building a jigsaw where the pieces are coming together.

“Middlesbrough possess absolute pace and we defended it well at times – and not so well on the two occasions that they scored.

“But I thought David Fox ran the show in midfield, Paddy McCourt showed great glimpses of what he’s about and Chris O’Grady was unplayable again.

“We’ve got a team that is coming together. We’ve got some big-game players and they’re giving us a point of difference.”

Flitcroft made two changes to his starting line-up for the Reds’ first match after the fortnight international break.

Frenchman Jean Yves-M’voto replaced the injured Peter Ramage in central defence, while Norway international striker Marcus Pedersen made his first start since scoring in the club’s last win of the season, 2-1 at home to Huddersfield at the end of August.

That meant Jason Scotland had to drop to the substitute’s bench, one which included no replacement keeper with Luke Steele still missing with a back injury.

Boro lined up with a more attacking 4-3-3 formation and should have been in front after they exposed the Reds defence after only five minutes.

McCourt carelessly gave the ball away and that led to Polish striker Lukas Jutkiewicz getting the better of left-back Tom Kennedy and curling a shot just wide of the left post. It was a real let-off for the hosts.

McCourt nearly made amends for his earlier error when referee Oliver Langford played the advantage when Pedersen was fouled, but the Irishman’s 21st-minute shot flew wide of the left upright.

Jutkiewicz then missed a glorious opportunity to put his side ahead four minutes later. Seb Hine’s delicate chip caught the Reds defence cold and Jutkiewicz had only keeper Jack Butland to beat - but he horribly blazed over when he should have at least hit the target.

It was a real turning point in the contest because the Reds hit Boro on the counter-attack and McCourt scored a brilliant solo goal less than a minute later.

The former Celtic man weaved his way inbetween three players before slotting past advancing Boro keeper Jason Steele and into the bottom-right corner.

Five minutes before the break, Jutkiewicz wasted another good chance. Skipper Grant Leadbitter’s free-kick was headed into his path by Kei Kamara, but the tall striker headed tamely at a thankful Butland.

A minute later the Reds doubled their lead. McCourt had to be substituted with sickness and his replacement, Jim O’Brien, tried his luck from distance. His shot deflected off the feet of O’Grady and wrong-footed Steele.

The home side weren’t finished and when Pedersen won a penalty after a foul by Ben Gibson in the box O’Grady stepped up to stroke home his second goal of the afternoon. It was the former Sheffield Wednesday hitman’s seventh goal of what is proving to be a productive season.

If you thought that was job done for the Reds, then think again. Flitcroft’s side went in search of more goals but in doing so Boro twice hit them on the break and Albert Adomah bagged a brace in three crazy minutes.

Kamara had headed straight at Butland and substitute Mustapha Carayol - who had a big influence when he was introduced - hit the top of the bar with a vicious dipping shot.

And then the building pressure finally told when Carayol crossed and Adomah struck, before two minutes later heading home unmarked for his second goal from a Frazer Richardson cross.

Adomah shot just over with a curling free-kick three minutes from time and then left-back George Friend and Kamara both headed wide right at the death as Boro came so close to completing a remarkable comeback and salvaging a point.

But victory was the Reds and that left proud boss Flitcroft praising his team’s supporters after the final whistle.

“The fans were brilliant,” said Flitcroft. “They could have been tense and gone ‘here we go again’, but they drove us on. The stadium was loud, the stadium was proud. There was a real verve from the stadium.

“They’re supporting me, they’re supporting the lads and the lads gave them great energy. The supporters gave them back that energy.”