Boro Bowled Over by Barnsley
By Robert Nichols
Monday 24 Feb 2020 11:03:00
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After the draw at Wigan and then the home defeat from Luton it was imperative that Boro stood their ground and fought back against bottom club Barnsley. The fact that The Tykes had just gone away and beaten promotion chasing Fulham 3-0 did not bode brilliantly but Boro could not go on shipping points, let alone to the bottom three. Sadly, that trend would continue and 2020 is proving to be the most challenging of years.

There were 4000 Boro fans making the short trip down to south Yorkshire. The whole of one end of Oakwell was Boro red, the same colour as those occupying the home seats of a club now fighting for its life to hold on to Championship status. Boro fans came in expectation and early on were in the mood to give loud backing to the team. But the football deteriorated along with the weather. Boro started to lose any real grip on the game but also just as against Luton failed to create any chances. And the away fans became increasingly disillusioned and critical. In such circumstances Oakwell can quickly become a very hostile place for Boro teams and managers, just ask Tony Mowbray. Following Barnsley's goal in the second half there was no hiding place from our own angered fans. The whole afternoon ended in disappointment, despair and angry, ugly confrontation. Another trip to Barnsley to chalk up in the nightmare column.

Jonathan Woodgate sought to toughen up the team by opting for experience. Ryan Shotton returned after his lengthy injury absence to play alongside Harold. George Friend continued at left back and Jonny Howson at right back as Woodgate tried to shield the youngsters from the building pressure cooker atmosphere. Ravel Morrison was given a chance to show his worth in the no.10 role while Britt returned alongside Fletcher, Oakwell having good goal memories for both strikers.

It was a heavier pitch that got heavier still as the heavens opened, something everyone in the front section of the away stand soon knew about to their cost. As well as the drenching, the wind whipped around appallingly. In other words this was no weather for anything other than a physical contest, the flightpath of any shot or pass punted into the air could not be predicted. Not a good day for defenders, lamentably we once again failed to put that to the test.

Boro had started quite brightly and there was plenty of loud backing for the team kicking towards our end of the ground. Britt was fighting hard against his marker, Jonny Howson rampaging down our right and whipping over centres. Yet we flattered to deceive and long before the half time whistle Barnsley were back in touch and in fact proving far more threatening. Pears had to be alert in his goal as the ball was whipping around and Saville was stretched as he tried to act as a shield protecting his box.

There were a few frustrated boos from the Boro end at half time. Maybe as much anticipating the lengthy queues just to get into the overcrowded concourse, never mind getting served with drinks. But seriously, we needed to do far better after the break and that meant seizing the midfield, giving our forwards some decent service and then showing some composure in the penalty area. Sadly, we would not deliver on any of these basics.

I did think it most probably would end up 0-0 which would not have been ideal but still a world better than a defeat. That was until Conor Chaplin scored following an almighty scramble in which the cross bar was struck and the ball was hacked off the line but like a hot potato on a wet and windy day we could not get it away. At the third time of asking Chaplin finished and we were 1 down and almost out.

There was plenty of time and although we threw on Gestede and then Coulson and McNair we couldn't break through. George Friend had one darting run cutting in from the left flank but his centre was cleared away. Lewis Wing's deflected free kick near miss remained just about our best moment of the whole game.

Frustration mounted and spilled over at the end of the game. Am not sure quite why the flag carrying fans chose to try and repeat history and level abuse at Boro players and management leaving the field. We were all angry and frustrated but there is no point in getting so up close and confrontational like that. Those demonstrating fans were not in the numbers to mean that history would be repeated with Woodgate following Mowbray out of the door. In fact the head coach slipped past and it was once again Gestede that got into heated sparring. Afterwards he revealed he was trying to suggest the parent should not be using such aggressive actions and language in front of his child. Anyway, he was pushed inside and with Friend and then Leo following on the heat was taken out of the situation. Barracking the former coach would clearly be crossing the line. Fortunately the supporters did stay in the stand and did not follow words with actions.

An ugly end to an ugly contest. Boro in free fall. Confidence falling like a very heavy balloon and now two incredibly hard games to come. Leeds hammered us at Elland Road. But ever there is a game that always brings us together then it has to be against Leeds and Leeds and Leeds.


Barnsley 1-0 Middlesbrough



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