A DEFENSIVE mistake and an injury-time chip cost Barnsley dear as they slipped to a frustrating away defeat at Middlesbrough.
The Reds were punished for switching off on the hour mark as Seb Hines’ point-blank header put the hosts ahead before substitute Bart Ogbeche capitalised on a poor pass from keeper Luke Steele to compound a miserable night for Keith Hill’s side.
Hines’ opening goal could have easily been avoided if the visiting defence had picked up their markers from Barry Robson’s inswinging corner.
Up to that point, Hill’s battlers had barely been troubled. But then Steele, who has had fine season in between the posts, was guilty of uncharacteristically giving the ball away and Ogbeche made it 2-0 with a cool finish in the third minute of time added on.
The Reds had made four changes from the team who drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest three days ago.
Defender Jay McEveley, midfielders Korey Smith and Michael Tonge were all dropped to the substitute’s bench, while promising teenager Paul Digby was once again omitted from the squad in the immediate game proceeding a full start.
Hill is keen to rest the 17-year-old, so that gave Stephen Dawson the chance to start in midfield, with fellow midfielder Nathan Doyle handed a surprise return having recovered from a calf strain.
Forward Chris Dagnall got his chance as well, with Andy Gray employed as a lone striker with leading scorer Craig Davies pushed out wide on the right.
But as early as the second minute Steele was called into action as the visitors looked to avoid a league double defeat having lost 3-1 to Boro at Oakwell early in the season.
Lukas Jutkiewicz tested the former Manchester United shot-stopper, but he was equal to the task.
On the counter-attack Gray had a shot saved by Boro keeper Jason Steele in a frantic couple of opening minutes.
Former Reds winger Adam Hammill, on loan at the Riverside from Wolves, tried his luck from distance soon after but his shot flew wide.
Hammill picked out Jutkiewicz who headed over as Boro forced the pace, while at the other end Davies fired wide as he went in search of his 12th goal of the season.
Winger Matt Done had a shot charged down in a good position, but Robson went close for the hosts when he fired wide with a powerful strike.
Robson headed wide of the target in the last of the first half chances, before Hines put Boro ahead 15 minutes after the resumption, able to head home unmarked.
Hill made three substitutions as the Reds pushed for an equaliser and McEveley - one of the new introductions - thought he’d bagged an equaliser in the dying minutes but his header was ruled not to have crossed the line with keeper Steele off balance and clutching the ball.
And then Reds’ keeper Steele gifted Ogbeche the chance to inflict a third defeat in four for Hill’s team.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-1-4-1): Steele 6, Hoyte 6, Hines 7, Bates 6, Bennett 7, Smallwood 7, Emnes 7, Robson 7, Arca 5 (Haroun 46, 5), Hammill 7 (Ogbeche 83), Jutkiewicz 5 (Main 46, 5). Subs: Zemmama, McMahon.
BARNSLEY (4-5-1): Steele 6, Wiseman 6, Foster 6, McNulty 7, Golbourne 5, Davies 6, Doyle 5 (Smith 76), Dawson 6, Done 7, Dagnall 5 (McEveley 60, 5), Gray 6 (Cotterill 83).
Subs: Preece, Tonge.
Referee: Peter Walton (Northants).
Booked: Robson, Arca, Jutkiewicz.