Britt Assombalonga rescued a point for Middlesbrough with his sixth goal of the season in a 2-2 draw against Barnsley at Oakwell.
Three goals in a frantic opening nine minutes saw Barnsley lead 2-1, and Assombalonga hauled Boro level on the hour mark. Both sides had chances to win it after that but could not force a fifth goal in the contest.
Ashley Fletcher, starting against the club for whom he scored four times in the league in 2016, gave the hosts a flying start with a third-minute own goal. He was unfortunate to turn Zeki Fryers’ in-swinging near-post cross into his own net.But Middlesbrough were level just four minutes later as Barnsley failed to clear a corner which fell to Martin Braithwaite who fired home from 10 yards. Barnsley regained the lead almost immediately. Brad Potts’ deflected cross was met in the middle by Cameron McGeehan who headed low past Darren Randolph.
After a frenetic start, the game calmed down with Barnsley happy to sit back and Boro looking to press high up the field.
Fletcher looked lively and willing to shoot from distance, but two long-range shots either side of the half-hour mark failed to trouble Adam Davies in the Tykes’ goal.
Soon afterwards a loose throw from the Barnsley goalkeeper found Fletcher who unselfishly passed through to Braithwaite, but Fryers chasing back denied him the chance to double his tally.
Nearing half-time, space opened up for Grant Leadbitter to strike from 25 yards out, but his shot flew narrowly past the post and Barnsley held onto their lead going into the break.
At the centre of the action, Fletcher should have levelled the game three minutes into the second half. The ball fell to him six yards out, but his side-footed shot was blocked by the sprawling Davies who was quick to rush from his line.
It was Assombalonga, who had been quiet for much of the game, who drew the sides level on the hour mark, placing a low shot to Davies’ left after Stewart Downing had sent him through on goal.Pushing for the winner, Downing forced a good save from Davies who palmed his left-footed shot from the edge of the area to safety. In response, Harvey Barnes could have won it for Barnsley but his left-footed effort rebounded off the post after good build-up play saw the ball fall to him on the left side of the area.
Gary Monk brought on Patrick Bamford with 10 minutes to play, but the fast-paced game began to slow and the remaining stages were played out in the midfield, both teams forced to settle for a point.Garry Monk felt his side dominated Barnsley but were forced to take the 2-2 draw at Oakwell because of avoidable errors.
Monk said: “We’re frustrated in that we’ve come looking for three points and only managed to get one, but it was a frantic opening and unfortunately for us we conceded that first goal.
“It’s hard to criticise the own goal for the first goal, but the second is avoidable and come from our mistake. But we responded well and we totally dominated the game after that.
“We created good opportunities to win the game but we weren’t clinical enough and not ruthless enough.
“So it’s both boxes in the sense of not causing our own mistakes and giving ourselves an uphill battle and then also being ruthless when you’re dominating games like that.
“It’s a difficult place to come and to dominate like that after the first 10 minutes and get into the situations we did are the positives which we’ll take forward into the next game.”
Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom said: “We’re obviously disappointed that we’ve been in front twice and not come away with the win.
“We weren’t at our best with the ball, but did some good bits without it which were pleasing, so it’s a fair result.
“We weren’t good enough with the ball to keep it from Boro for long spells and they weren’t good enough to keep it from us.
“The game had spells where it was really good and had spells where it really frustrated me. But we’ve managed to take a point from Boro so I have to be realistic and think that the players have come a long way.
“They’ve got quality all over their squad so we know we have to be spot on all the time. We had to prepare and because we have a brand-new team this year it’s all new to them and bit by bit we’re getting better.”