That treacherous night – wild in terms of weather and with a tough result to match as his side slipped up in an unsatisfactory defeat – could not have been more contrasting with this occasion for the visitors.
On a day when the mid-September heatwave continued, the sunshine on the pitch came from the visitors, resplendent in their bright yellow away kit.
Two superbly-constructed team goals in the first half from Patrick Schmidt and Jordan Williams – with the recalled Luke Thomas at the heart of both eye-catching moves – will have provided Struber with a fair degree of pleasure as his side imposed themselves on a physical and direct Boro side far more adeptly and convincingly than they did against Luton last weekend.
The Austrian had urged his players to be brave on the ball and in their movement and to take Boro’s big defenders out of their comfort zone and the evidence conclusively showed that they were listening intently.
Now, a glamour trip to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge home awaits in round three – and Reds supporters can indulge themselves in a few re-runs of a certain Cup goal from Kayode Odejayi against the Blues in 2008.
Just a shame that Barnsley followers will not be strutting down the King’s Road next week for a rare date at one of English football’s marquee venues.
Ahead of the game, Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock spoke about having little passion for the League Cup and this was a night when he chose to sit in the West Stand and allow assistant Kevin Blackwell to take the reins on the touchline.
Even accounting for that, it must have been tough not to decamp to his traditional position with his side – including new signing and former Barnsley loanee Sam Morsy who was handed a debut – losing their way badly after providing some early tempo.
It was a night when none of Boro’s supporting cast made a case for starting in the league, in a spectacle where the guile and composure came from Barnsley and the hosts looked cumbersome and one-dimension in comparison.
In marked contrast, the likes of Thomas, Schmidt and Dominic Frieser planted a firm seed in the mind of Struber ahead of the weekend trip to Reading, with debutant Michael Helik also enjoying a serene introduction to life in England.
The drama of Boro’s helter-skelter 4-3 victory over Shrewsbury Town in the previous round was sadly absent from a home perspective at a venue where Boro have lamentably won just once since Boxing Day.
Warnock has spoken about his desire to bring in two new forwards and on this evidence, adding another senior centre-half option looks to be another key area to address ahead of next month’s deadline allied to some mobility in central midfield.
That will have been heightened by these events with a visit from relegated Bournemouth next up in a tough league start for the Teessders.
Boro toiled against the wit and movement of Barnsley’s forwards, despite some brief flurries which saw Lewis Wing produce a couple of half-chances.
Barnsley composed themselves and after Frieser’s crisp shot was held by Bettinelli, they made the breakthrough on 22 minutes. Boro’s new loan keeper was caught out at the near post after a clever disguised low finish from Schmidt following lovely approach work from Killian Ludewig and Thomas, which manoeuvred the hosts’ backline out of position.
Suitably settled, Barnsley started to knock the ball about with aplomb and their second goal 12 minutes later was also a beauty.
A delightful pass from Thomas cut out two home defenders and Williams tucked away his second goal for the club, with Bettinelli again hoodwinked at his near post.
Boro’s pressure in the second period failed to yield a way back with Marcus Tavernier shooting straight at Brad Collins and the Reds keeper tipping over Paddy McNair’s free-kick in two of their more dangerous moments. But it was all pretty standard.
At the other end, a flowing move instigated by Alex Mowatt ended in an instinctive first-time shot from Schmidt – showing to look a more assertive and confident player these days – which was parried by Bettinelli.
The gloss of a third goal never arrived for Barnsley, but this time, Struber will have left Teesside with a smile on his face as the Reds – who head back to the Riverside for a league game in just 18 days time – made light of their wretched recent record in the League Cup.
Middlesbrough: Bettinelli; Dikjsteel (McNair 45), Fry, Wood; Coulson, Wing, Morsy (Folarin 69), Bola, Tavernier; Browne, Fletcher (Howson 69). Substitutes unused: Brynn, Spence, Johnson, Assombalonga.
Barnsley: Collins; Sollbauer (Halme 69), Helik, Andersen; Ludewig (Styles 45), Mowatt, Ritzmaier, J Williams, Thomas (Woodrow 61), Schmidt, Frieser. Substitutes unused: Walton, Chaplin, Miller, Adeboyejo.
Referee: A Backhouse (Cumbria).
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