Barnsley are eight points adrift of safety and winless in 17 league matches after a 1-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Middlesbrough on Wednesday. 

Former Reds striker Ashley Fletcher got the only goal early in the second half to move his side out of the Championship’s bottom three and leave his old club rooted to the foot of the table. 

The game was played in constant rain and there was a lot of standing water on the pitch which made passing football difficult. Barnsley were probably the better side before conceding but Boro could have added several goals after they took the lead, with goalkeeper Sami Radlinger by far the visitors’ best player. 

Gerhard Struber – who has now lost both games as head coach – made two changes from Saturday’s loss at Blackburn Rovers. Toby Sibbick was dropped for the first time in his Barnsley career, with Dimitri Cavare coming in and Luke Thomas was also back in the side at the expense of the injured Aapo Halme. The Reds used a 4-2-3-1 formation with Alex Mowatt and Mike Bahre in central midfield while, from right to left, Thomas, Conor Chaplin and Jacob Brown played behind Cauley Woodrow. 

Barnsley started the brighter with Brown, Thomas and Chaplin all having shots blocked in the box, but the hosts had the first major chance. Britt Assombalonga, their £15million signing, beat Bambo Diaby in the area and shot past Sami Radlinger but left-back Ben Williams brilliantly hooked it off the line. 

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Chaplin had another shot blocked in the box while both Woodrow and Bahre shot straight at home goalkeeper Aynsley Pears from outside the area. 

Assombalonga wasted another superb chance to open the scoring when, after Mads Andersen missed a header, substitute Marc Bola brilliantly crossed from the right and the striker was free ten yards out with the goal gaping but Radlinger made a superb block. The goalkeeper was almost beaten by his own player Cavare after rushing out to punch a corner but the right-back’s flicked header went wide. 

Barnsley almost took the lead in first half stoppage time but Woodrow shot over from just outside the box after a clever Thomas pass put him in the clear following a fine move. 

The Reds also came close just after the interval but Brown’s 20-yard effort looped down onto the crossbar. But it was the hosts who took the lead in the 54th minute when, after Cavare failed to clear, Marcus Tavernier crossed low from the left to the unmarked Fletcher who jinked his way past Radlinger and Andersen who both slipped over and the ex-Red walked the ball into the net. 

Barnsley continued to have shots regularly blocked in the home penalty area, Woodrow twice and Chaplin once, without carving out a clear chance. 

Boro should have doubled their lead on 72 minutes when Assombalonga’s shot from the right of the box was well saved by Radlinger but the striker picked up the rebound and, with Tavernier and Fletcher free to tap in, managed to pass between his two team-mates. 

Radlinger again denied the hosts when Hayden Coulson was put clean through on goal but his shot took a slight touch off the goalkeeper’s legs which meant it went just wide of the bottom right corner.  The inspired Austrian goalkeeper then denied both Assombalonga and Tavernier from ten yards out on the left of the box within a minute of each other as Barnsley’s defence was breached very easily and regularly towards the end of an increasingly one-sided contest. 

Radlinger was beaten after rushing out of his box in injury-time and being rounded by Assombalonga on the left wing but, for the second time in the game, the striker’s shot was blocked from going in by Williams. 

Barnsley: Radlinger; Cavare, Andersen, Diaby, B Williams; Mowatt, Bahre (McGeehan 69mins), Thomas (Schmidt 74), Woodrow; Chaplin, Brown Unused: Collins, Sibbick, J Williams, Dougall, Oduor. 

Middlesbrough: Pears; Ayala, Fry, Howson; Dijksteel (Bola 23mins), Tavernier, McNair (Clayton 78), Wing, Cousin; Assombalonga, Fletcher  Unused: Mejias, Wood, O’Neill, Liddle, Hackney. Yellow cards: Howson.  Goals: Fletcher 54. 

  • 19:47pm
    The first thing to say is that there is a lot of standing water on the pitch. Very hard to kick the ball around on it. If it keeps raining all night, it could become unplayable
  • 19:49pm
    4 The first 'shot' of the game sees Ashley Fletcher's effort from just outside the box trickle to Sami Radlinger who has to take several steps forward to gather it That was after a very good Lewis Wing run
  • 19:50pm
    5 Now Jacob Brown slips over as Barnsley go into the home box for the first time and he tries to cross. Conditions a big factor here
  • 19:52pm
    7 Cavare crosses low from the right and Brown has a shot blocked. Cavare gets it back and wins a corner
  • 19:52pm
    8 Mowatt's corner is headed away
  • 19:53pm
    So to update you on Barnsley's line-up. Mowatt and Bahre are the holding midfielders, Thomas is on the right, Brown on the left and Chaplin just behind Woodrow who is back up front
  • 19:54pm
    9 Another Barnsley attack. Cavare bursts into the box and his low cross is spilt by young goalkeeper Aynsley Pears before Woodrow and Chaplin have shots blocked. At the other end, Assombalonga gets past two in the box and beats Radlinger but Ben Williams brilliantly clears off the line
  • 19:58pm
    13 Alex Mowatt slices the ball behind for a Boro corner
  • 19:59pm
    14 The corner is cleared. Barnsley are holding their own here in difficult conditions for both sides
  • 20:02pm
    17 minutes in and the only real chances of note was when Williams hooked Assombalonga's shot off the line
  • 20:04pm
    19 Woodrow shoots from 30 yards and the swerving effort is fumbled by Pears then collected. It's a first Barnsley shot on target
  • 20:07pm
    22 Lewis Wing fires over a free-kick from 25 yards
  • 20:07pm
    Middlesbrough make a change due to injury. Anfernee Dijksteel comes off for Marc Bola
  • 20:10pm
    25 Barnsley in another good position as Chaplin gets ball from Brown on the left but his shot is repelled by a good Ayala block
  • 20:11pm
    That's the fourth block in the box by the home side tonight. The Boro defence are really protecting their rookie goalkeeper
  • 20:12pm
    27 Bahre dispossesses a home player just outside the box and shoots but it is straight at the goalkeeper
  • 20:17pm
    More than half an hour gone now. Both sides trying to attack but finding the final pass difficult is very wet conditions.
  • 20:18pm
    Barnsley will be pleased with their performance so far. They have probably had more attacks than. the hosts and looked more solid at the back than previous games
  • 20:18pm
    33 Barnsley claim for a penalty but replays show that Woodrow threw himself to the ground with no contact. He did seem to hurt his shoulder but is nam up again.
  • 20:19pm
    No Brown is down in the box after getting an accidental hand to the face
  • 20:21pm
    36 A second huge chance for Britt Assombalonga. Andersen totally misses a header then Marc Bola crosses brilliantly from the right to open up the visiting defence. The striker is one-on-one with Radlinger ten yards out but the goalkeeper makes an excellent sliding block with his feet
  • 20:24pm
    So Boro's striker has missed two massive chances - by far this best opportunities of the game so far, although the Reds have also looked lively at the other end
  • 20:25pm
    40 Boro win a corner on the left and it causes chaos as Radlinger comes to punch it and Cavare heads it over him and just wide. Nearly a horrendous own goal
  • 20:28pm
    Jonny Howson booked for sliding in on Woodrow about 40 yards from the home goal
  • 20:30pm
    The rain has got even heavier in the last few minutes. The pitch and players look absolutely sodden. I imagine the groundsman and referee will inspect the surface at the interval
  • 20:31pm
    45+1 A really nice move by Barnsley ends with Luke Thomas playing a clever pass to his right and Woodrow, in plenty of space just outside the box, firing just over
  • 20:31pm
    HALF-TIME: Middlesbrough 0, Barnsley 0.
  • 20:47pm
  • 20:51pm
    49 Barnsley so close to the opener. Jacob Brown shoots from 20 yards but it crashed off the bar
  • 20:54pm
    This is turning into another decent performance under Gerhard Struber. Can they cap it with a goal?
  • 20:55pm
    Ashley Fletcher the former Barnsley man
  • 20:57pm
    A low cross from the left was collected by Fletcher and then both Radlinger and Andersen slipped, allowing him to walk the ball into the net.
  • 20:57pm
    A hammerblow for the Reds who had probably been the better team for the first 54 minutes
  • 21:01pm
    Coming up to the hour-mark. The Reds look a bit stunned by that goal and the hosts are on top but without creating a clear chance for the second
  • 21:03pm
    61 Signs of recovery for the visitors. Woodrow has a second shot blocked in the box in a matter of minutes. The home fans haven't settled yet
  • 21:09pm
    68 Another shot blocked. This time by Conor Chaplin after a free-kck
  • 21:10pm
    Cameron McGeehan is about to come on for the visitors
  • 21:11pm
    McGeehan on for Bahre, who has had a few good touches but generally has been quiet in a deeper than usual position
  • 21:14pm
    72 A big chance for 2-0. Assombalonga is put through on the right on the box and forces Radlinger a good stop. The striker gets it back and tries to play it to his unmarked team-mates but passes between Tavernier and Fletcher who both would have had tap-ins
  • 21:15pm
    Patrick Schmidt replaces Luke Thomas
  • 21:18pm
    75 Goalkeeper Pears spills a cross behind for a but it is then cleared
  • 21:18pm
    78 Another top save by Radlinger. Hayden Coulson is put clean through on goal but the goalkeeper gets a slight touch with his legs and the shot is wide
  • 21:19pm
    Paddy McNair is replaced by Adam Clayton
  • 21:23pm
    80 Sami Radlinger is clearly Barnsley's man of the match. He's just made two more massive saves, both from shots on the left of the box about ten yards out. Firstly Assombalonga on the volley after a fine Clayton lobbed pass, then Tavernier after Barnsley could not clear
  • 21:23pm
    The Reds' full-backs are nowhere to be seen at times and their centre-backs are struggling with the movement of Boro's attackers
  • 21:26pm
    Radlinger has made four or five superb saves to keep his side in with a chance of nicking something here. He hasn't just got in the way of close range efforts, he's made magnificent reaction saves
  • 21:31pm
    We're entering the 90th minute. The Reds have been outplayed for the last 35 but can they steal a point?
  • 21:32pm
    Four minutes of injury-time
  • 21:36pm
    90+4 Assombalonga again goes through and goes past Radlinger who runs out of his goal on the right, but for the second time Ben Williams makes a block to save a goal
  • 21:37pm
    FULL-TIME: Middlesbrough 1, Barnsley 0