TONY Mowbray was today looking to see his Middlesbrough side bounce back from a opening-day “disappointment.”
Boro face Burnley at the Riverside tomorrow night after losing their first npower Championship fixture at Barnsley.
Mowbray’s side went into the trip to Oakwell as favourites following a promising pre-season programme and the fact the Tykes had lost 11 of their last 15 competitive matches.
But Barnsley recorded a deserved win, Craig Davies giving Boro keeper Jason Steele no chance with an impressive finish on the stroke of half-time.
Boro, who looked well below par, huffed and puffed late on but could not find an equaliser.
“I felt pre-season had gone pretty well but on the big stage we didn’t perform at the level we’ve been showing,” Mowbray admitted.
“On the first day of the season you get those tight games but even though we pushed hard we didn’t manage to force one in late on.
“We will get better I’m sure.
“We lacked a bit of bravery to play at times and I see that as a strength of the team.
“We scored goals in pre-season – we got seven at Falkirk and five against Tottenham development team.
“But here that was not evident.
“We’ve got plenty to work on. We’re all disappointed of course, you don’t want to go through a season losing many games and we’ve gone and lost the first one.
“We have to put that right tomorrow night.”
Both sides made changes from their successful Capital One Cup outings last weekend.
Barnsley handed starts to David Gonzalez, Scott Golbourne, Tomasz Cywka and Marlon Harewood while Mowbray replaced the injured Kevin Thomson and Mustapha Carayol with Faris Haroun and Julio Arca.
Boro, backed by a 3,800-strong away following, were the quickest to settle and Arca, Emmanuel Ledesma and Grant Leadbitter all peppered the Barnsley goal with early shots from distanc.
But Tykes keeper Gonzalez was only called into action once.
Barnsley, whose late-season form last year was so bad that they only retained their Championship status due to Portsmouth’s 10-point deduction, slowly found a way into the game and they should have taken the lead in the 16th minute, but defender Foster headed over from a good position.
They were buoyed by that opening and Davies stung Steele’s fingers with an effort from distance, while Cywka sent one just over.
And they were rewarded for their endeavour with the vital breakthrough on the brink of half-time as after a neat interchange between Perkins and Harewood, Perkins found Davies and he fired a low shot across Steele and into the bottom corner.
Keith Hill’s men were not perturbed by the 15-minute interval and Davies could have had another soon after the restart, but Steele produced a fine save.
Foster then once more failed to direct a free header.
After Mellis sent an effort just wide for the hosts, visiting boss Mowbray had seen enough and made a triple substitution on the hour mark in a bid to bring some life to what had been a limp display.
However, it made no difference to proceedings and Davies was denied on two further occasions, with Steele in impressive form.
Ledesma had a chance to equalise late on but, only four yards out, the summer signing could not get any power behind his effort and Gonzalez saved.
Boro had some calls for penalties turned down but Mowbray refused to blame the officials.
“I don’t want to talk about decisions, the result is there for all to see,” Mowbray said.
“The referee was OK, a bit busy if anything, but OK.
“But I would not say the referee was the reason we didn’t score, we had chances late on but we did not take them.
“That is something we need to keep working on.”