Boro are 18th in the table, four places and six points above the relegation zone while they are winless in nine matches in all competitions. Last-placed Barnsley have the worst home record in the Championship this season, having collected just 19 points from 17 games with four wins. Only six sides have scored more than the Reds at home this season but they have conceded the most on their own turf with 31.
They were unbeaten in Gerhard Struber’s first five Oakwell games, with three wins, but the last three have brought a 3-0 loss to Preston North End, a 1-1 derby draw with Sheffield Wednesday and a 1-0 defeat to Birmingham City. Struber said: “I hope that many crowds come and support us.
“In the last games, they have no big reason, especially against Birmingham (a 1-0 loss last week), to create a party after the game. I hope we have a big support. It was special to have 1,500 in Fulham. We need everyone, the fans, the team, the whole club. Everyone must work together – it is a big responsibility for everyone to keep us in the league.”
Tomorrow’s game will be the first that Struber’s side have played against a team who he has previously faced, as they lost 1-0 at Middlesbrough in November. Struber said: “It helps me. I know the opponent from seeing them live. This is one reason more why we can win. Middlesbrough is a counter-attack team. They showed in the last few games they had problems in their gamestyle and the compactness.
"We have a good chance against Middlesbrough in our style. We need a big attitude in our defence because their strikers have Premier League quality. It’s a big challenge but a big chance for us. Middlesbrough are a big name with big history. Maybe we have more experience of being in a relegation fight than them and we can handle the pressure.”
Boro are managed by former England defender Jonathan Woodgate who was given his first managerial job for this season after Tony Pulis left in May, having taken them to seventh, a place and point outside the play-offs. They won just two of their first 17 league games, leaving them outside the relegation zone on goal difference in late November.
But they ended a ten-match winless run with a 1-0 success at home to Barnsley, thanks to a goal by Ashley Fletcher who scored eight goals in 27 games for the Reds on their way to promotion in 2016 and is now Boro’s top-scorer with ten in all competitions. That started a better run of form for Woodgate’s men especially four straight wins in 12 days over Christmas including 2-0 wins at promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End. They are now on a nine-match winless run in all competitions, including a 1-0 loss at home to second-bottom Luton Town on Saturday which kept the Reds last.
While that was their first defeat for ten games at the Riverside Stadium since October, they have only won two of their 16 away league matches – the joint lowest tally. They are the second lowest scorers in the Championship, with only Wigan Athletic netting fewer. Defender Ryan Shotton, who played 31 games on loan to Barnsley in 2009/10, has missed most of this season with injury but was on the bench this week. This will be the 61st meeting of the two clubs, of which Boro have won 32 and Barnsley 16. The five most recent clashes have brought four Boro wins and a 2-2 draw at Oakwell in October 2017 which was the last time the North East side visited Barnsley. Boro have only won one of their seven visits in the league to Oakwell since 1993, losing four.