Josh Benson snatches Barnsley FC win as shot-shy Middlesbrough crash out

Like the home supporter who seemed to take about an hour to realise he had brought a megaphone with him – how very continental – for a while during Wednesday’s League Cup tie at the Riverside, it felt like Middlesbrough were going to belatedly make their presence felt against League One Barnsley.

But as it seemed obvious the game was heading to penalties, visiting substitute Josh Benson rewrote the script with a stoppage-time winner.

If Boro dominated the second half having been second best in the first, the Barnsley defenders – principally Robbie Cundy who made two excellent sliding tackles and goalkeeper Jack Walton –deserved to see their hard work on a hot night put to good use.

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It was harsh on debutant goalkeeper Liam Roberts, who saved Benson’s initial shot from Jordan Helliwell’s exquisite turn but could not stop the rebound.

Barnsley's Josh Benson celebrates scoring their side'swinning goal at Middlesbrough (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA)Barnsley's Josh Benson celebrates scoring their side'swinning goal at Middlesbrough (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA)
Barnsley's Josh Benson celebrates scoring their side'swinning goal at Middlesbrough (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA)

Boro had their usual Red Faction drummer and the supporters who started a Viking thunderclap behind them as they tried to build momentum but could not quite do enough to force victory, but playing well can only take you so far when you lack a razor-sharp cutting edge. Well though Barnsley defended, Boro had chances Championship players ought to have taken.

Even with the addition of United States striker Matthew Hoppe, signed from Mallorca, and paraded before kick-off, they still look in need of more firepower and you can rest assured manager Chris Wilder will be giving his chairman Steve Gibson earache until he gets it.

Marcus Forss, disappointing on loan at Hull CIty in the second half of last season, had a glorious late chance but spent too long assessing his options and allowed Cundy to nip in for a second excellent tackle in minutes.

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Duncan Watmore wasted one inside 90 seconds, sprinting onto a long ball with Conor McCarthy trying and failing to hold him back but Walton came out to save.

Barnsley's Josh Benson opens the scoring at Middlesbrough (Picture: PA)Barnsley's Josh Benson opens the scoring at Middlesbrough (Picture: PA)
Barnsley's Josh Benson opens the scoring at Middlesbrough (Picture: PA)

Hayden Hackney was making only his fourth appearance as Boro handed debuts to Roberts and striker Sonny Finch, and it was the former and the latter who combined after four minutes, Hackney shooting wide after Finch broke down the right.

But whether it was anything to do with Paddy McNair being treated after seven minutes, Boro seemed to lose impetus and Barnsley grew in confidence to be the better first-half team.

A poor pass across his own goal by central centre-back Anfernee Dijksteel (the Boro back three swapped positions more than some forward lines) gave Aiden Marsh the ball wide but the 19-year-old was unable to do anything with it.

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With both sides much-changed it was no surprise they looked a little disjointed but it was Watmore who tackled McNair and McCarthy who got in Mads Andersen’s way, some of the few regulars on show.

Callum Styles, part of the Hungary side which embarrassed England at Molineux in June, remains a Barnsley fixture but probably not for much longer if the scouts were paying any attention to his performance.

He showed his commitment by tracking a Watmore run and his skill with a clean penalty-area tackle and made two good contributions to the move which ended with Andersen producing a dropping shot from distance which Roberts could only flap away.

Styles and Marsh both combined when No 10 Jack Aitchison shot wide and the midfielder had his shot blocked after picking the ball up deep and driving at goal.

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Marsh was a constant threat behind the home back three, although he just overhit his return pass in a long-distance one-two with Aitchison.

Caolan Boyd-Munce’s poor backpass played him in, but Marsh was too close to Roberts to beat him when the ball fell his way. Roberts also cut out the cross when McCarthy’s sweeping pass picked out Marsh.

Walton had to save from Marc Bola but it was a dug-out cross rather than an intentional goal attempt which had him scrambling to his back post.

It was similar with Joe Gibson’s volleyed cross that went just wide at the start of the second half.

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Gibson and Roberts, two of Boro’s least experienced players, were also two of their best.

Marc Bola was unable to stretch to a McNair flick-on at a corner and when Marsh had Barnsley’s first chance of the half after 58 minutes, putting the ball into the side netting he was substituted almost immediately.

Benson’s introduction brought a switch to 4-3-3 but no turning of the tide, until stoppage time. Dael Fry had a header well saved in the 81st minute, Chuba Akpom’s was weak, Isaac Fletcher’s shot wide.

Middlesbrough: Roberts; McNair (Bilongo 60, Dijksteel, Fry; Smith, Finch (Akpom 60), Hackney, Boyd-Munce, Bola (Dodds 75); Watmore (Forss 60), Gibson (Fletcher 77). Unused substitutes: Daniels, Kavanagh, Conteh, Sivi.

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Barnsley: Walton; McCarthy (Benson 68), Cundy, Andersen; Helliwell, Styles, Connell, Oduor; Aitchison (Thomas 59); Cole, Marsh (Iseka 59). Unused substitutes: Kitching, Moon, Ackroyd, Hondermarck, Jalo, Collins.

Referee: B Toner (Blackburn).

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