Middlesbrough 3-1 Barnsley: Boro maintain play-off charge
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 10/03/18 6:43pm
Middlesbrough continued to turn up the heat on their rivals for a Championship play-off place by defeating relegation-threatened Barnsley 3-1 at the Riverside Stadium.
Boro made it four wins from five unbeaten games by getting off to the perfect start and never allowing the Tykes back into it.
While Middlesbrough's win keeps them in the top six after their recent run of good form, Barnsley are left wondering when the next victory will come from as they sit just above the bottom three.
Adama Traore's brilliant strike in the 18th minute followed on from Daniel Ayala's opener with less than 60 seconds on the clock.
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Patrick Bamford, with his eighth goal in his last five outings, made it three shortly after half-time to effectively wrap things up, even though Barnsley pulled one back soon after through striker Kieffer Moore.
Barnsley could not find a way back after that as manager Jose Morais' wait for a second win goes on after taking charge five games ago.
Middlesbrough have been building momentum in their push for promotion and this was a confident and assured display under Tony Pulis, who was able to name an unchanged team.
It was clear that the home side was looking to go on the front foot from the start because Traore was quick to burst into the visitors' half and that led to the early opener.
Centre-back Ayala had gone up for Ryan Shotton's long throw and although that was cleared, the ball found its way back to the full-back on the right hand side.
Shotton's back post cross was ideal for Ayala to outmuscle his marker and he prodded his finish beyond goalkeeper Nick Townsend.
Barnsley had not even threatened the Middlesbrough goal when the second arrived 17 minutes later and there was quality about it.
Traore found himself in control 20 yards out. He knocked the ball from under his feet to the left before unleashing an unstoppable drive low and beyond Townsend.
After that Middlesbrough continued to control the opening half without looking like scoring a third; although Barnsley did not look like pulling one back either.
And less than eight minutes gone in the second half, Bamford's good run of form continued - however fortunate he was with the finish.
His eighth goal in five matches came off his knee, when he was at the back post and Downing's corner fell to him and bounced over the line to wrap things up.
Rather than cave in, Barnsley threatened to make a game of it by pulling one back less than five minutes later. Darren Randolph, the Middlesbrough keeper, failed to deal with Gary Gardner's effort and Moore headed in the rebound.
Randolph turned an effort from Stephen Mallan behind for a corner and Moore headed against the post, as Middlesbrough had to defend more. Traore was denied a second by Townsend at the other end when he should have squared to Lewis Baker.
But Middlesbrough had already done enough and now sit three points clear of Bristol City below them.
Tony Pulis: "In the first half we did very well, passed it well, played through the pitch and put lots of crosses in. The one disappointment was that we never scored more goals. The third goal should have truthfully killed it but we took our foot off the pedal and that's one of the things we've been talking about. You can't do that at any level.
"You've got to make sure you keep your foot on the pedal. It's been a tough week, three really tough games and we've got the points we want and need so I can't be too harsh on them."
Jose Morais: "We knew it was a difficult opponent, with quality players. We were aware of situations that could happen in the game and for some reason we didn't control it in a good way in the beginning and I believe in the first half we had problems to keep our organisation.
"This has happened in some games, we wanted to correct it and we couldn't. I wasn't impressed with the second half, I was surprised with the first half. I believed the team can do what they did in the second half. That is what I wanted and the players wanted, we wanted that for the whole game. That is what we have to work on to achieve the results we want in such a competitive league with opponents who have quality."