Sports

MacDonald finally gets it right with stoppage time derby equaliser

Barnsley 1, Sheffield Wednesday 1

(SkyBet Championship)

Barnsley fans were ‘loving it’ when MacDonald dished up a tasty stoppage time equaliser at Oakwell.

They would have loved it even more had a goalbound curler from Adam Hammill not been cleared off the line shortly afterwards.

But even so, it felt like a victory for the home team after they had served former Reds’ striker Sam Winnall what seemed a Wednesday winner on a plate just after the break.

A draw was no more than Barnsley deserved against their South Yorkshire neighbours, for whom there was much more at stake than  derby game bragging rights.

While the Reds, marooned in the safety of mid-table, had nothing else to play for, Wednesday badly needed three points to get them back on track for a promotion play-off place.

It made for an absorbing encounter which was slow to come to the boil, but when it did, provided much to savour, particularly in that pulsating finale.

Observed Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom: “I’d have been upset if we hadn’t got something out of the game, but I’d have been even more delighted if we’d have got three points with the chances we had at the end. The result shows the spirit in the team.”

Heckingbottom had opted  for what seemed a more negative formation than of late, with a back four, Matty James in the anchor role of a midfield five and Tom Bradshaw the lone striker.

However, it had the desired effect in the first half, smothering Wednesday’s attacking desires while at the same time allowing for swift counters thanks to the pace of Hammill and Ryan Kent on the flanks and the ever-willing Bradshaw down the middle.

There had to be an enforced change just three minutes after the interval when Andy Yiadom had to be withdrawn because of a shoulder injury sustained in the opening session and that left Heckingbottom in a quandary, as he explained: “Having four of our full-backs out it posed a real problem.

“We signed Saidy Janko as a winger but were already having to play him at right-back, and when Yids was unable to carry on we had to switch Josh Scowen to left-back, which he did brilliantly.”

Determined to carry on, Yiadom left the field three times after being initially hurt in the 18th minute, but eventually had to bow to the inevitable.

Explained Heckingbottom: “He kept dislocating his shoulder and having it put back. He tried to get to half time and we put a real good strapping on it, but his first contact second half was him done.”

The Reds were the better side in the first half, with Wednesday restricted to speculative off-target attempts from distance, and the home team were the first to threaten danger in the 10th minute when Bradshaw robbed Tom Lees and fired in a good shot from 25 yards which was just wide of the target.

Hammill, at last displaying some of last season’s thrilling form, began to curl in some deliciously tempting crosses, but the Reds lacked both the numbers and the physical qualities in the box to take advantage.

It was Hammill himself who eventually managed to steal in for a glancing header from a Yiadom cross in the 27th minute but Keiren Westwood saved at the near post.

Another Hammill cross saw a Bradshaw header bring a second routine save from Westwood and five minutes before half-time Angus MacDonald had a header cleared virtually off the line following a Hammill corner.

When Yiadom went down for the fourth time two minutes after the resumption Heckingbottom had to re-organise, with Scowen taking over at full-back and George Moncur filling the vacant midfield role.

If that was not bad enough, two minutes later the visitors were gifted an undeserved lead.

Goalkeeper Adam Davies tried shielding the ball in an attempt to allow it to run out for a goalkick, when a punt into the stands would have been a much safer option; Adam Reach picked his pocket, slid the ball across the penalty area and there was Winnall – who else? – to gleefully guide it into the untenanted net.

One could understand Winnall’s delight. From the first whistle he had been pilloried by the Reds’ fans, who have not forgiven their former top-scoring hero for joining one of their fiercest derby rivals in the January transfer window.

However, running to those same fans and celebrating in front of them was a major error of judgement and could have had serious consequences. The goal itself was sufficient response to the inevitable treatment he had received.

That was the Owls’ first attempt on target and it changed the complexion of the game. Suddenly the visitors looked more composed, more of a threat, more likely to have he home fans shaking their heads in frustration and wondering if this was to be yet another occasion when they would leave thinking ‘we didn’t deserve to lose.’

Wednesday had the ball in the net again in the 57th minute but the flag had already been raised for offside; Davies had to make a courageous save at the feet of Jordan Rhodes; and Barry Bannan fired over the top from close range.

A double substitution just after the hour mark – Marley Watkins going on for Alex Mowatt and Adam Armstrong replacing the chase-anything Bradshaw – provided the additional spark that the Reds now required, and it almost resulted in an equaliser two minutes later.

Kent made a searing run down the left, fed Armstrong, and the striker looked likely to score before being denied by a brave block at his feet by Westwood.

The Reds increased the pressure as the minutes ticked by but, as in so many games recently, could not find an end product. Even when five minutes stoppage time was signalled it seemed that they were doomed to yet another derby day defeat at the hands of the Owls.

But in the third minute of that added on time Hammill produced one more pin-point cross from a free-kick on the left and this time MacDonald (pictured) was on hand to provide the strength and height to rise above everybody and power home a header.

It was the central defender’s first Championship goal of his career and was a timely celebration of the new contract he had signed earlier in the week.

It was also pay-back time for the three own goals he has conceded  and he admitted: “I’ve put a few in at the wrong end this season, so it’s nice to finally score at the right end. That one was for the fans and I’m glad they enjoyed it. It’s one of the best moments of my career.”

Smiled Heckingbottom: “I don’t know if Angus is in credit yet, He might need a few more!”

The Reds were unlucky not to go on and win the game. Westwood went down at full length to save a Moncur volley and then man of the match Hammill saw a brilliant curving effort headed off the goalline.

The character, determination and resolve of this Barnsley squad of players were all once again clearly highlighted. But so was the lack of a 15-20 goals a season marksman.

Someone like Sam Winnall, perhaps!

Barnsley (4-1-4-1): Davies; Janko, Roberts, MacDonald, Yiadom (Moncur, 48 mins); James; Hammill, Scowen, Mowatt (Watkins, 61 mins), Kent; Bradshaw (Armstrong, 61 mins).

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Fox; McManaman (Matias, 73 mins), Hutchinson (Jones, 35 mins), Bannan, Reach; Winnall, Rhodes (Fletcher, 63 mins).

Bookings: Hammill, Kent (Barnsley; Reach, Winnall, Hunt (Sheffield Wednesday).

Referee: Kevin Friend.

Attendance: 18,003 (5,009 away).

 

 

 

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