Middlesbrough 3-1 Barnsley

It’s always good to start things off in an honest fashion isn’t it, so that’s what I’ll do I think; I’ll start off in an honest fashion. I really wasn’t too fussed about going along to this one, what with the season being done and dusted and Barnsley needing a win and most of the lads spending the last two games in Crete, or Kos. That’s where they go to now isn’t it, Kos. Which is fitting really, Kos, because today’s opponents were Barnsley and Barnsley is famous for the bloke who wrote ‘Kes’, the book about the kestrel, which sounds a little bit like ‘Kos’. So everything tied in and made a bit of sense in some respects.

Anyway, despite not really being up for it it was actually one of the first games I’ve left feeling positive about the Boro for a good while as it seemed to be nothing more than an honest game of football with some goals in it. The quality wasn’t great and Barnsley were poor, probably the worst team I’ve seen at the Riverside this season, but both teams were being honest about things – as if they both knew their respective limitations and tried to play around them as much as they could.

Boro started slowly but got better as the half wore on, forcing Luke Steele into several saves before the referee wrapped his lips around his whistle to signal the end of the first period. Dean Whitehead made several strong tackles and interceptions and gave it to a teammate with the minimum of fuss whilst Ken Omeruo didn’t break sweat, and Adam Reach had a decent strike on goal and had a knack of finding a fair amount of space down the left. It wasn’t spectacular, not by any stretch, but it was better than I was expecting as I mulled the possibilities whilst drinking a cup of coffee this morning. Barnsley, for their part, relied solely on launching the ball up to Chris O’Grady every time they had it and struggled to work out that it was coming straight back at them each and every time. Then again, when your midfield has Liam Lawrence in it I suppose you can forgive their defenders for trying to bypass it as often as possible.

Given that we’d finished the first-half the stronger of the two teams it was absolutely no surprise to see the Tykes take the lead via a good old thwack of a strike from that big massive defender, the spectacularly named ex-Sunderland reserve Jean-Yves M’Voto, a truly magnificent specimen, who spent the afternoon defending like Sol Campbell with his shoes on back to front. To be fair to him he won pretty much everything he went for, but that’s because he’s just so big. Too big, if you ask me. Anyway that seemed to wake us up quite considerably and we equalised courtesy of a splendid little strike from Lee Tomlin within two minutes. It was a big goal for us at just the right time because you get the feeling that things could’ve turned a little bit sour if we’d had to endure twenty minutes of watching the lads trying to break down Barnsley down without success.

Another patchy period followed, with Butterfield surprisingly replaced by Chalobah, a change that came a little bit too early for my liking in all honesty, but as the game wore on Barnsley had to push everyone forward as they chased the goal that would keep them in the division. The gaps appeared and Boro broke through a few times before Danny Graham tucked away a relatively scruffy goal as the clock struck ninety. It was no more than we deserved really because we were much the better side on the day, though we do need to remember that the standard of the opposition was incredibly poor at times. Tomlin then popped up with another splendid goal at the death, the bitter death, as Boro wrapped it all up and sent me home for my home-made Pajeon in a very good mood, a very good mood indeed.

As I said earlier on, I don’t think we should get too carried away with this particular win because we were sloppy on the ball at times, wasteful in front of goal and in-and-around the Barnsley penalty-area in general(though Luke Steele had a good game for them), and we’ve probably got through it by virtue of being marginally better than a relegated team, but it’s satisfying to sign off from the Riverside with a relatively comfortable win from a relatively enjoyable game of football. It was also good to see Adam Reach get a game, though he was perhaps a little too tentative at times(I don’t expect him to be Alan Moore at Notts County in ’93 but I’d like to see him take on his man more often). Ben Gibson did well filling in at left-back, Dean Whitehead put a good performance in and steadied the middle of the field as he went along and we coped with losing our two central-defenders to injury with the minimum of fuss. All I things considered I think it was a good day across the board, though I’ll not really be sorry to see the back of the season as a whole in after next Saturday’s tepid 1-1 draw at Huish Park.

Konstantopoulos 6, Varga 6, Omeruo 7, Woodgate 6, Gibson 6.5, Whitehead 7.5, Butterfield 6.5, Adomah 5.7, Tomlin 7.6*, Reach 6.5, Graham 6.5, Ayala 6, Chalobah 6, Hines n/a.