EAST-STANDER: A return to the ‘good old days’

Forget Albert Square, Oakwell is the only place to be for our exclusive take on Barnsley FC, from the fans who take their seat in the stands to cheer on the super Reds.

It was just like the ‘good old days’ against Blackpool, with a good atmosphere, good attendance, a good match, end to end play – and a referee who should have gone to specsavers!

How could he possibly have missed, not one, but two, blatant hand-ball penalties. With one of them the defender had both arms in the air as if in surrender, and we just couldn’t believe it when the official waved play on. We might have gone on to win it, but for those decisions.

Having said that, though, a draw was a fair result. Neither side deserved to lose. Or, put it another way, both sides deserved to win.

And to be fair to Mr Woolmer, other than his blind spot with the penalty appeals, he had a reasonable game himself.

Incidentally, there were quite a lot of new faces around us, attracted by the special price, and we can only hope that the Reds’ excellent team performance will have encouraged them to attend on a regular basis. It would be great to have all those seats around us occupied week by week. It’s a bit discouraging when your nearest neighbour is so far away that you have to do a walk 20 yards to pass him a mint imperial.

One of those who felt that the cheaper admission charge was an opportunity to renew his acquaintance with Oakwell was East-Stander’s brother, who had not been down since the Premiership days. We have to say Mick was very impressed, so perhaps he is at least one who will be returning for the next home game.

One player in particular took his eye, and that was young Stones at right-back. After only 15 minutes he turned to us and said: “I like the look of him. He’s going to be some player.” Then he added: “He won’t be here long.” Sad that. But he’s probably right. It’s one thing producing good young players; it’s another keeping hold of them. We simply can’t compete in financial terms, and who can blame young players like Stones for wanting to play at a higher level – and for much more money.

Just one thing upset our Mick. Thomas Ince – son of ex-Manchester United midfielder Paul and another great young prospect – cost him £20, because he had a bet that Barnsley would win 1-0, with Davies the scorer. And that was the situation until Ince, watched proudly from the directors’ box by his dad, popped up with a top-class equaliser.

It was good to see Luke Steele on the bench challenging to regain the goalkeeper’s jersey after injury, and at the same time encouraging to note that there is genuine competition for the number one spot, with Ben Alnwick, that daft sending-off at Rochdale a distant bad memory, looking secure and confident, his handling being very good and two or three top quality saves bringing appreciative cheers all round.

We could mention one or two other individuals – Stephen Foster got the sponsors’ man-of-the-match award for example – but first and foremost it was a team performance that earned a deserved point against a very good Blackpool side.

Just one small criticism, though. Why do we lose momentum when we are on the attack? We realise that a patient build-up is sometimes necessary, but too often our lads stretch caution and patience a little too far. We need to be more positive in what the so-called experts call ‘the last third of the field.’

But that’s something that can be worked on. Meanwhile we can all take heart from the fact that the Reds are now unbeaten in three home matches in which they’ve picked up seven points and given us a lot of entertainment in the process.

We were also delighted before the match when the Barnsley players paused in their warm-up routine to applaud the soldiers who were doing a ‘lap of honour’ round the touchline. Good on yer, lads!

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