KEITH Hill’s worries mounted as his stuttering Barnsley side slid to a third straight home defeat – the second in the Championship.
The boos rang out at the end as the Reds, who scarcely troubled Boro’ keeper Carl Ikeme throughout 90 minutes, now have just one goal – and that from an opponent last night – and one point to show for a disappointing start to the campaign.
Reds boss Hill made three changes to his starting XI following the dismal showing against Southampton. Out went centre-back Jim McNulty, replaced by Stephen Foster, recovered from illness.
Keeper Luke Steele was also back with understudy David Preece dropping down to the bench.
Craig Davies was dropped to the bench, leaving Danny Haynes as a lone front-man, with Jim O’Brien stepping into the midfield. After three blanks in front of goal so far, the Reds faithful saw their team open the scoring after just four minutes. It was the softest of own goals as centre-back Stephen McManus tapped David Perkins’ cross past keeper Ikeme, but the Oakwell joy didn’t last long. Within 10 minutes their team were behind as Boro’ roared back.
Scott McDonald levelled in the 11th minute – flicking home Barry Robson’s corner-kick. Two minutes later McDonald crossed in low for Robson who bundled home. The Reds players were shellshocked and it was perhaps a surprise that it took Boro until a minute before the break to extend their lead. Robson missed a great chance before a McDonald pass found Marvin Emnes and he slotted past Steele.
There was little respite from Boro’ early in the second period as Steele twice came to the rescue. Defender Matthew Bates was thwarted, as was McDonald courtesy of a brilliant diving save.
As the final 20 minutes approached Barnsley were having difficulty just getting the ball out of their own half, but grafter Jacob Butterfield offered a little hope when he lashed in a shot from outside the box which flew inches wide.
Hill threw Davies and teenager Reuben Noble-Lazarus on as fresh impetus was clearly required, but sadly it didn’t come and Boro’ continued to monopolise possession and chances.
Robson twice came close to adding his second of the night – firstly from a 20-yard free-kick, then as he blazed over with the Reds’ defence flat-footed.
Barnsley: Steele 8; McEveley 6, Edwards 6, Foster 7, Wiseman 5; Addison 5 (Done 84, 6); O’Brien 5 (Noble-Lazarus 71, 6), Butterfield 7, Doyle 5 (Davies 60, 6), Perkins 7; Haynes 6.
Subs not used: Preece, Hassell.
Middlesbrough: Ikeme 7; Bennett 6, Bates 7, McManus 6, Hoyte 7 (Hines 75, 7); Arca 7 (Smallwood 80, 6), Williams 6, Bailey 7, Robson 8; Emnes 7, McDonald 8.
Booked: Barnsley - Doyle (32), O’Brien (69); Middlesbrough – Robson (50)
Ref: Darren Drysdale (Lincs)