MIDDLESBROUGH travel to Barnsley tonight determined to build on their storming start to the season.
Manager Tony Mowbray’s side are unbeaten in their three competitive games this term following Saturday’s 1-0 npower Championship win at Leeds United.
That run extends to seven if results from their strong finish to last season are taken into account, but it is their form on the road which remains the most pleasing aspect of the Boro renaissance.
Winning their last four encounters away from the Riverside in all competitions, Mowbray’s men travel to Oakwell in search of their fifth on the spin after taking the scalps of Cardiff, Hull, Walsall and Leeds on their travels.
Middlesbrough fans have to go all the way back to early 2006 for a repeat of that hot streak, when Sunderland, Stuttgart, Preston and West Brom were all defeated on the road. However, the prospects of continuing the run look promising.
Tonight’s opponents started their Championship tilt with a creditable draw at Nottingham Forest, but Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to Southampton has seen them sliding down to a bottom half of the table many expect them to occupy in the longer term.
Barnsley manager Keith Hill admitted “places are up for grabs” after former Sunderland front-man David Connolly sent them to defeat last time out but Middlesbrough, in contrast, are bouncing down to Oakwell with a spring in their step.
Sat at eighth in the embryonic early-season standings, Boro have also been buoyed by the scoring exploits of Marvin Emnes.
The Dutchman was at it again last weekend with the winner at Elland Road and the 23-year-old has already surpassed last season’s goals tally with five in just three games.
Mowbray has gone public on his quest to add to his striking options, although whittling down the list and finding the right man at the right price remains a continued stumbling block for the manager.
Julio Arca’s recent return has shown there is still intent on Teesside to strengthen the ranks, and the Argentine was back to his old tricks in setting up Emnes’ match-winning strike after impressing from the bench.
Faris Haroun is expected to be the next face through the door, although technicalities are understood to be holding up the formalities for a player who has already trained with his prospective team-mates.
Mowbray had hoped to have the former Belgian international on board for a place in this evening’s match-day squad, but Sunday’s home date with Birmingham now looks the more likely option for the 25-year-old midfielder, who last featured for the Germinal club in his homeland.
Bury’s French midfielder Damien Mozika is another player to have been linked with the Teessiders, who have seen skipper Matthew Bates’ name mentioned strongly in connection with a potential switch to Premier League new-boys Swansea.
One man not on show tonight, however, will be Tony McMahon, the 25-year-old having been sent off for two bookable offences at Elland Road.
The second of those, in particular, appeared harsh, but Mowbray will be forced to juggle his pack nonetheless.
Justin Hoyte’s thigh injury could see further disruption to the defence, with Seb Hines and Rhys Williams both among the contenders to step in.
Williams’ impressive form in the Boro midfield means the manager will be reluctant to disrupt his formation too much, although the Australian’s recent international appearance at fullback against Wales means his name will at least come into the reckoning.
Either way, Mowbray’s men will be out to avoid a repeat of the 2-0 defeat they suffered this time last year at Oakwell, when goals from Jason Shackell and Adam Hammill saw Barnsley take maximum points.
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough’s Carling Cup second-round tie at Peterborough has been confirmed for Wednesday, August 24. The match will take place at Posh’s London Road ground with a 7.45pm kick-off.