Barnsley 0, Cardiff City 0
The end of the season cannot come soon enough for all concerned with Barnsley Football Club.
Most of all, for head coach Paul Heckingbottom.
He knows, as well as, if not better than, everyone else, what the problem is. The stats do paint a true picture on this occasion. Only ten goals scored in the last 13 matches adds up to only two wins, six draws and five defeats.
Unfortunately, and so frustratingly, there is little that Heckingbottom can do about it until the summer. Then it really will be crunch time. The Reds’ prospects for the next Championship campaign will all depend on the success of his dealings in the transfer market.
The main target is to find the players with the ability to translate the team’s undoubted footballing qualities into that most vital of all commodities – scoring goals.
As for the fans, there is a limit as to how much longer they can savour the resilient defending; the crisp approach play; the pace and trickery down the flanks; the tireless running off the ball; and the hard-working team ethic, without the end product.
Even those supporters who attend home matches only have not seen a Barnsley victory since the glorious derby success against Leeds United on January 21.
This Tuesday night stalemate against Cardiff City means that the Reds have not won anywhere in their last eight outings, during which they have netted a mere five times.
In the vast majority of those fixtures they have been the better team, but their reward has been a meagre four points from four draws.
It was the same old story against the Welsh Bluebirds. The Reds had a remarkable 72 per cent of the possession yet they failed to produce a single shot on target in the first half.
Their output was better in the second, but far too often a poor cross, a wayward final pass, a lack of composure – plus an unequal battle with regards to height when it came to winning aerial battles – continued to let them down.
Heckingbottom was his usual honest self when speaking to the media after the game.
“We didn’t score and we aren’t going to to win by not scoring,” he admitted, but then went on: “There were lots of things I was pleased with so I can’t be too critical because there’s one element missing. But we all know that results are the be all and end all.
“We dealt with the Cardiff threat and controlled the game for long periods, and if we had scored at any point the game would have opened up. It would have been a better spectacle and I’d have fancied us to get more.”
A couple of individual performances must have been amongst the things which pleased the head coach.
Saidy Janko, continuing to show rich promise, despite operating as an emergency full-back, was deservedly voted man of the match by the fans, but that accolade could have been bestowed with equal merit on Matty James (pictured), who was outstanding in the midfield anchor role and also when playing a more attacking role in the latter stages.
A pity that both are on loan and unlikely to feature next season!
The Reds made a bright, enterprising start to the game and almost scored with only 30 seconds on the clock when a goalbound effort from Marley Watkins was deflected for the first of a series of first half corners.
There was little else worthy of note in the opening period. Kenneth Zohore sent a powerful left-footer over the bar from 25 yards and at the other end a Watkins’ cross was almost deflected into his own net by Greg Halford. And that was about it.
Barnsley were better in the second period and the long wait for a shot on target arrived in the 50th minute when the ball cannoned off Janko and City’s substitute goalkeeper Brian Murphy reacted well to make a one-handed save.
Murphy, who replaced the injured Alan McGregor at half-time, then denied Adam Hammill; saved a 25-yarder from Josh Scowen by the foot of the post; dived bravely at the flying feet of Tom Bradshaw to turn the ball away for a corner; and dealt comfortably with a trademark Hammill curler.
As the Reds continued to press for a winner, Watkins had two chances in the last ten minutes of normal time. First he failed to control the ball under pressure and then, free on the right, he could only fire weakly into the arms of Murphy from an angle.
It was not until five minutes of stoppage time that Cardiff produced their first attempt on target – and they then added another seconds later! There was never any chance, however, that either of them would beat Adam Davies.
Nevertheless, it was a pertinent reminder of what can happen when a team fails to turn its dominance into goals.
Barnsley (4-1-4-1): Davies; Janko, Roberts, MacDonald, Jones; James; Watkins, Scowen, Mowatt (Kent, 71 mins), Hammill (Hedges, 83 mins); Bradshaw (Armstrong, 81 mins).
Cardiff City (4-4-2): McGregor (Murphy, 45 mins); Connolly, Ecuele Manga, Bamba (Morrison, 65 mins), Bennett; Noone, Halford, Gunnarsson, John (Harris, 65 mins); Pilkington, Zohore.
Bookings: Janko (Barnsley); Connolly, Bamba, Halford (Cardiff).
Referee: Scott Duncan.
Attendance: 10,814 (183 away).