Barnsley 4, Leeds United 1
By Andrew Lodge
Barnsley finished off 2011 with one of their most memorable wins in many a year!
They went into the New Year’s Eve clash with local rivals Leeds United on the back of three straight defeats – and suffered the blow of seeing skipper Jacob Butterfield limp out of the action after just 15 minutes – but they responded in magnificent fashion, producing a team performance full of drive, determination, commitment, aggression, skill and passion.
A sorry-looking Leeds side were simply swept away.
The visitors were backed by over 5,500 supporters, most of them housed in the North Stand, but Leeds were far from United. In fact, they were awful, and capitulated once Barnsley had gone 2-0 up.
The Leeds fans ended up venting their anger and dismay with chants against club chairman Ken Bates. In contrast, Barnsley voices in the season’s best crowd of 17,499 belted out the classics ‘It’s Just Lke Watching Brazil’, ‘Keith Hill’s Barmy Army’ and ‘Can We Play You Every Week’ as their favourites romped to a notable league double over their much-vaunted West Yorkshire neighbours.
Reds boss Hill and his assistant David Flitcroft had been forced into reshuffling the Oakwell pack, after being hit by injuries to loan duo Danny Drinkwater and Nile Ranger, and having seen regular first-teamer Jim O’Brien ruled out with a stomach muscle problem picked up in the Boxing Day loss to Blackpool.
But the Reds management team worked their magic, getting a wonderful display from the players under their charge. From front to back, and back to front, Barnsley were superb.
Miles Addison, in his last game for the club before his loan spell from Derby draws to a close, was an absolute colossus in central midfield. It was by far his best display in a red shirt. Alongside him David Perkins never gave the Leeds midfield a moment’s peace. Scott Wiseman, asked to operate in O’Brien’s position out wide on the right, worked his socks off, and delivered some sublime second half crosses that could well have added to Leeds’ misery; Craig Davies ‘bullied’ United centre-back Patrick Kisnorbo; Matty Done, who started wide on the left and then moved ‘into the hole’ behind Davies following Butterfield’s withdrawal, again caught the eye with his pace and movement; the back four of Bobby Hassell, Stephen Foster, Jimmy McNulty and Jay McEveley worked well in tandem; and even though he was a surprise choice for the sponsors’ man of the match, goalkeeper Luke Steele also played his part with some excellent saves.
But it was a super sub who stole the show.
All the pre-match talk had focussed on Reds ace Butterfield. The 21-year-old, subject of feverish transfer speculation, was making his 100th appearance for the club. But just four minutes in he was on the receiving end of two tough tackles and needed treatment. Whether the second challenge, from ex-Sheffield United ‘enforcer’ Michael Brown, was an attempt to hit Barnsley’s best player ‘hard and early is open to question but afterwards Hill said that he thought United had ‘done a job’ on Butterfield.
The midfielder tried to shake off the knock but knee ligaments had been strained – and in the 15th minute he was forced to come off.
No matter. On came the hero of the hour!
Portuguese attacker Ricardo Vaz Te had netted one of Barnsley’s two goals in the victory over Leeds at Elland Road in November. He proved mercurial here, netting with his first touch and going on to claim a hat-trick.
He had been only been on the pitch for 60 seconds when he lit the blue-touch paper for Barnsley.
Davies had done well to turn Kisnorbo on the edge of the box but then went down claiming a free-kick. Referee Neil Swarbrick waved play on, however, because Vaz Te arrived on the scene, took the ball into the box and then drove a low shot beyond Andy Lonergan from 15 yards.
Leeds tried to respond, with their best player on the day, Ramon Nunez, forcing Steele into a full-length save, but Barnsley were in the ascendancy. A fantastic tackle by Addison on the edge of his own box only served to whip up the players and the crowd’s fervour even more.
Leeds were wobbling – and both Darren O’Dea and Mika Vayrynen were booked for poor challenges.
Davies missed a decent chance to make it 2-0 before the break, blasting over the top from 12 yards after Done had picked him out with a beautiful little lay-off.
That was the only fear, being just one-up at the break, but any hopes Leeds might have harboured of getting back into the contest were well and truly dashed by Barnsley’s second goal on 51 minutes.
Done’s left-wing corner flicked off the head of O’Dea and fell to Vaz Te, whose first touch was a little loose but he still managed to get in a shot that finally crossed the line, with both Davies and Kisnorbo in there challenging.
Davies wheeled away as if he was going to claim it, but the majority of his team-mates were already congratulating Vaz Te.
From that point on, despite a double substitution by manager Simon Grayson, Leeds appeared to give up – and Barnsley began to really enjoy themselves.
The best goal of the day arrived on the hour mark. Perkins burst towards the United box and although his pass to Done was cut out, the ball rolled to Davies and with hardly any backlift the Reds striker curled a stunning right-foot shot past a stranded Lonergan and into the far corner for his ninth goal of the campaign.
Six minutes later Davies almost repeated the trick, this time his effort flashing just past the upright with Lonergan scrambling.
The home fans were loving every minute – as the Reds hunted the ball in packs, and broke forward with pace, good movement and desire. There was a wonderful high energy tempo to their play.
And it became 4-0 on 71 minutes, with Vaz Te claiming his hat-trick.
Hassell’s brilliant crossfield pass deceived Leeds full-back Paul Connolly, and Vaz Te chested it down and sped towards the penalty area. He swept past Kisnorbo as if the United centre-back wasn’t there, before slipping a low shot past the advancing Lonergan. The Ponty End was in raptures.
Hill brought on Andy Gray for the tiring Done, who received a standing ovation from a deliriously happy three-quarters of the Oakwell ground.
The Reds rearguard had played their part too, and as the minutes ticked by so the prospect of a notable clean sheet edged closer. In the 76th minute Steele pulled off an unbelievable point-blank save to divert an O’Dea header onto the angle of post and bar, and then the Reds ‘keeper parried away efforts from Nunez and substitute Adam Clayton.
At the other end Lonergan went full stretch to deny Davies, and then saved from Addison, as Barnsley went seeking a fifth goal. A piledriver from Vaz Te also looked to be heading for the roof of the net until it took a deflection off O’Dea.
But it was Leeds who managed to pocket a consolation effort in the 90th minute, when substitute Luciano Becchio headed in a Nunez free-kick.
That was the only disappointment for Barnsley, not getting the clean sheet that Steele and his defenders deserved.
But it was a wonderful win. One that will live as long in the memory as the 5-2 thrashing Barnsley handed Leeds at Oakwell last season.
United simply can’t cope with the Reds at the moment it seems.
It was a truly memorable way for Hill and his team to sign off the year.
Barnsley (4-2-3-1): Steele (mark out of 10: 9); Hassell 8, Foster 8, McNulty 8, McEveley 8; Addison 9, Perkins 9; Wiseman 8, Butterfield 7 (Vaz Te, 15 mins 9), Done 8 (Gray, 78 mins 7); Davies 8. Unused substitutes: Preece, Edwards, Noble-Lazarus. Shots on target: 8. Shots off target: 12. Corners: 9. Bookings: None. Goals: Vaz Te (16 mins, 51 mins, 71 mins), Davies (60 mins).
Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Lonergan; Connolly, Kisnorbo, O’Dea, White; Brown, Pugh; McCormack, Vayrynen (Clayton, 54 mins), Nunez; Keogh (Becchio, 54 mins). Unused substitutes: McCarthy, Bruce, Sam. Shots on target: 6. Shots off target: 8. Corners: 3. Bookings: O’Dea, Vayrynen, Connolly. Goal: Becchio (90 mins).
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).
Attendance: 17,499 (5,760 from Leeds).
Barnsley’s men of the match: Miles Addison and Ricardo Vaz Te.