Match Report: Middlesbrough 3 Barnsley 1

Tom Kennedy tackles Boro's Dean Whitehead
Tom Kennedy tackles Boro's Dean Whitehead
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Brave Barnsley waved goodbye to the Championship as they surrendered a second-half lead at Middlesbrough.

Seven years at second-tier level came to an abrupt - but predicatable - end at the Riverside Stadium as a lack of real, genuine striking quality finally caught up with Danny Wilson’s gutsy battlers.

Just 42 goals from 45 games simply isn’t enough, and a repeat of last season’s final-day survival heroics will not be repeated.

It’s been difficult with ‘little’ Barnsley and their two managers - Dave Flitcroft and, latterly, returning legend Danny Wilson - finding it tough to compete with the likes of moneybags Leicester, Derby, QPR, Wigan and Forest, to name but a few.

They have been punching above their weight for at least a couple of seasons.

However, despite the financial disadvantage the Reds have found themselves pushing so hard against, this season’s eventual drop into League One was down to one main problem - goals, or rather that crucial lack of them.

Speaking to the media in the aftermath of Saturday’s 24th league defeat of the season, Wilson said: “It’s been a brave effort from the lads, but in this game we’ve seen

yet again exactly what the problem has been in recent seasons.

“It’s in front of goal where we’ve struggled.

“Again at Middlesbrough we didn’t take the opportunities when they came, and that’s typified us this season.

“Granted, our goalkeeper, Luke Steele, had had another fantastic game, but at the other end we’ve not had enough firepower.

“When we’ve got teams under pressure, we need to score goals, but too often we’ve not done that and that has ultimately cost us dearly.

“We just don’t seem to have scored enough goals, or got ourselves far enough in front to have just pushed us over the line in games.

“Today we’ve not held the lead long enough and that’s proved costly, but it all comes down to goals and us not being able to score enough.”

So, 17 years to the day since the Reds secured their dream promotion to the promised land of the Premier League with a win against Bradford City, then and current boss Wilson was this time facing the prospect of fortunes turning full circle as relegation to the third tier was staring him in the face.

Wilson made three changes to his starting line-up following the largely disappointing performance in the 2-1 defeat at Derby County on Easter Monday.

There was positive news on the injury front, with Marcus Pedersen back to partner Chris O’Grady up front, and right-sided pair Kelvin Etuhu and Ryan McLaughlin also returning.

Dropping out were ankle-injury victim Lewin Nyatanga, Tomasz Cywka, who was named among the substitutes, and Paddy McCourt, who was simply left out altogether.

The opening half-hour was pretty much nip and tuck.

Chances were at a premium, but Boro created most of them despite the Reds having so much at stake.

Pedersen saw a deflected effort well saved by Dimi Konstantopoulos and McLaughlin also tested the hosts’ custodian, but Sunderland loan man Danny Graham was looking a real threat and he twice brought smart saves out of Steele.

Albert Adomah then fired in a low drive which Tom Kennedy bravely hacked off the line.

The Reds briefly saw the dream of Championship survival edge closer when they stormed into the lead eight minutes after the restart.

It was a simply-worked strike, with Jean-Yves M’voto side-footing home on the volley straight from Kennedy’s out-swinging corner.

The travelling faithful celebrated wildly, but less than 60 seconds later they were seated again as Boro levelled when Lee Tomlin cracked home a super strike from 25 yards.

After that the Reds tried gamely to wrestle back the initiative and the lead, but it was Boro who continued to look dangerous in their final home game of the season as Graham twice more brought fine stops out of Steele.

The golden chance that the Reds needed came and went begging in the 75th minute.

Again Kennedy floated over a sweetly-struck corner, but the unmarked M’voto charged in to meet the ball and headed woefully over the top.

Barnsley were out for the count in the 90th minute when Graham crashed home clinically to make it 2-1.

The Reds players were beaten and the travelling fans headed for the exits, which just left Tomlin to rub salt in the gaping wound as he slotted coolly past Steele in the 94th minute.

Can the Reds bounce straight back into the Championship next season?

Now’s that’s the big question for everyone at Oakwell.

Hero: Luke Steele had another storming game between the sticks. Had it not been for the popular number one, the Reds would have been beaten much more heavily. It will be interesting to see whether he sticks with Barnsley during the summer.