Middlesbrough 2-0 Barnsley: Match recap
Middlesbrough recorded back-to-back victories for the first time this season as Andraz Sporar and Matt Crooks secured a 2-0 victory over Barnsley.
That result puts the Teessiders within three points of the play-off spots and shows exactly why momentum is such a valuable tool in the Championship.
Neil Warnock made two changes with Lee Peltier coming back from suspension and Isaiah Jones coming in to replace Uche Ikpeazu and Onel Hernandez who dropped to the bench.
With one extra defender coming into the side, Boro shaped up with four at the back with Jones and Marcus Tavernier dropping from the wings to help out defensively. Payero started in a more advanced role as many fans have been calling out for following his impressive display against Peterborough.
Barnsley started the game on the front foot with a shot from left-back Jordan Williams that was snuffed out by Tavernier at a tight angle, before a slip from Sol Bamba had Boro panicked as Clarke Odour hit the post after being put clean through on goal.
Momentum then started to build for Boro as Tavernier produced a quality chance for Sporar with a run through the middle with the forward testing the Barnsley keeper Brad Collins with a tame shot down to this left hand side.
The Tykes looked like a shadow of a team that reached the play-offs last season and Middlesbrough looked to capitalise as Tavernier cut in from the right and produced another strong save from Collins, resulting in the first of Boro’s many corners.
With the corner reaching Paddy McNair at the back post, he whipped a great ball back in towards Sporar who planted a header into the bottom corner.
After the first goal, Boro could have easily had a handful of goals in the next 15 minutes with plenty of chances going their way.
Watmore had the next chance after playing a one-two with Peltier to allow the striker to cut in from the left and sting the palms of Collins who was enduring a busy night.
With Payero and Tavernier shooting high and wide, the first half concluded with Boro cruising on top and with Crooks and Payero controlling the midfield.
If Middlesbrough could start the second period in the same vain, it was clear that a second goal could be in the offing.
The second half started in a sloppy manner for the hosts with Crooks' pass being intercepted by Leya Iseka who had a great chance blocked by Sol Bamba who did brilliantly to deny the opportunity.
Boro were forced into their first change after the hour mark when Sporar went down with a injury and was replaced by Ikpeazu in attack.
Payero had left supporters wanting more following his late assist against the Posh and almost found the net himself when he cut onto his right foot before hitting a strong effort which Collins parried away.
Barnsley started to push forward midway through the second half with Joe Lumley forced into making a great double-save from Woodrow and a close range shot from Callum Brittain which was then fired well over the bar from William Hondermarck.
Middlesbrough looked like they had a golden chance to wrap up the game when Paddy McNair played a fantastic ball down the channel to Payero who darted into the box and squared it to Duncan Watmore who had the simple task of putting it in the back of the net - only to scoop his effort over the bar from six yards.
Fans were left wondering if Warnock's side would live to regret the missed opportunity, however Watmore's blushes were spared when a clipped ball into the box was headed into the bottom corner by Crooks to make it 2-0.
It was a goal that was richly deserved by the Teessiders and ensured that supporters headed home from a chilly Riverside Stadium with a smile on their faces as attention turns to a trip to Cardiff City on Saturday lunchtime.