Barnsley 1, Brentford 1
It is very difficult to say anything about Barnsley’s performance against Brentford that has not already been said in the weeks since the January transfer window robbed them of three of their most influential players.
They treated the crowd to some good attacking football, but lacked the appropriate end product, and a momentary lapse of concentration at the back allowed the opposition to sneak in for a goal which their play, at least until that point, did not deserve.
Does that sound familiar?
This was the Reds fifth successive home draw and their fans have not seen them win at Oakwell since they pipped Leeds United 3-2 in a thrilling derby clash way back on January 21.
Head coach Paul Heckingbottom admitted that his side should have gathered all three points.
“We feel we did more than enough to win, but we missed the final bit of quality”, he told the media after the game. “I was pleased in terms of performance, but we should have had more goals.”
Once again it was an assessment that echoed that of other encounters in recent weeks, but Heckingbottom remains full of admiration for the what the players have achieved in this first season back in the Championship.
“The players can’t give any more,” he said, “and I hope the supporters appreciate that come the end of the season. There’s a commitment and willingness to do well and they deserve all the plaudits they get.”
No-one epitomises that commitment and willingness more than Josh Scowen in midfield and Tom Bradshaw in attack, but another player caught the eye on this occasion.
George Moncur, who has taken a while to settle, both on and off the pitch, since his arrival at the club in the summer, produced a performance of high quality alongside the dependable Matty James in central midfield and richly deserved the supporters’ man of the match accolade.
In a recent interview Moncur (pictured) admitted that he suffered with homesickness when he first moved to Barnsley, but here he showed that he is now much more comfortable and determined to secure a regular place in the starting line-up next season.
He was very much involved in the goal which gave the Reds the lead in the 28th minute, his pin-point diagonal pass sending Scowen scurrying in typical fashion down the right, and when the Brentford defence failed to deal with the latter’s cross there was Marley Watkins to lash the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the penalty area.
It was no more than Barnsley deserved. They had dominated from the first whistle and Watkins had already gone close with a header, under pressure from Harlee Dean, after a clever dummy and teasing cross by Ryant Kent had set up the chance .
Bradshaw then took advantage of a Watkins’ pass to let fly from 22 yards only to see Brentford goalkeeper Jack Bonham positioned ideally to make a routine save.
The Reds still dominated after Watkins had put them in front, some more enterprising play creating shooting opportunities for Bradshaw, whose angled right-footer fizzed just wide of the far post, and for Scowen, who was foiled when Bonham recovered well to block his shot after initially dropping James’s probing cross.
But then, four minutes before the break, the visitors finally produced the kind of move which Heckingbottom had warned his side about, Jota slipping the ball through to Florian Jozefzoon, who had made an intelligent run between defenders Mark Roberts and Angus MacDonald, and he chipped the onrushing Adam Davies to equalise with his side’s first attempt at goal.
Said Heckingbottom: “Brentford are a great side in great form with dangerous players if you let them have the ball on the counter. That’s why they are doing so well. It was a moment of good play from them.
“We could have done better, but it was a great final pass from Jota and a great goal.”
However, even the visitors’ manager, Dean Smith, admitted: “We were fortunate to be level at half-time because we were nowhere near the standard we’re capable of.”
It was so different after the break. Buoyed by the goal, the Bees became much busier in attack than they had been in the opening session and they carried a great deal more sting.
Consequently it became a highly entertaining cut-and-thrust affair, with each team threatening in turn to add a second goal which could prove crucial.
The teams had been back on the pitch barely a minute before the visitors were provided with the opportunity to swing the balance in their favour.
A shot from Sergi Canos struck Angus MacDonald on the arm and referee Robert Jones had no hesitation in pointing to the spot for a penalty.
Jota stepped up to take it, but Davies flung himself to his left to make an outstanding save, pushing the ball on to the post, and Brentford were unable to force home the rebound.
After that the game sprang to life and the next 45 minutes were as entertaining as any you could wish for on a crisp Easter Monday afternoon – despite the lack of further goals.
Within the space of five minutes Moncur forced Bonham into a diving save after a forceful run; Canos headed on to the bar, Roberts clearing the rebound off the line; Moncur fired over on the counter; and Bradshaw missed a great chance, Bonham racing out to make a block save.
And so it went on. Kent cantered clear down the left, slipped the ball to Moncur and his goalworthy 25-yarder clipped the bar; Kent then cut inside to bring a save from Bonham; and the 72nd minute brought a glorious chance for the Reds to end their run of draws.
Scowen produced a precision pass to put Watkins clear with only Bonham to beat, but the striker lofted the ball not only over the goalkeeper but over the bar as well.
He almost made amends five minutes later with a shot from 25 yards which was only just over the bar.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Gethin Jones had cleared off the line following a Jota corner, and Davies saved from Canos.
In the last few minutes Bonham made a magnificent save from a powerdrive from James, Watkins headed just over and Jota suffered a similar fate with a late half-chance for Brentford.
The Reds have one more oportunity to bring a welcome end to their winless home sequence of eight matches – against Burton Albion on April 29.
Meanwhile they have the little matter of a trip to Bristol City on Saturday when they will face a team managed by former Oakwell boss Lee Johnson.
So there are still matters of pride to take into account as the season draws to a satisfactory conclusion.
Said Heckingbottom: “We set the players a target of winning as many games as we’ve lost – we’re one behind on that; finishing with a positive goal difference – we’re one up on that; and being the best team since 2000, so in terms of points return, I think we’re there on that as well.
“We’ve got those little things we’re aiming for because I want the players to get the credit they deserve. It’s been a really big effort from start to finish throughout the season.”
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; Janko, Roberts, MacDonald, Jones; Scowen, Moncur (Hedges, 81 mins), James, Kent; Watkins, Bradshaw (Armstrong, 68 mins).
Brentford (4-1-4-1): Bonham; Clarke, Dean, Egan, Henry; Woods (Yennaris, 68 minis); Jota, Kerschbaumer (McCormack, 75 mins), Sawyers, Jozefzoon; Vibe (Canos, 30 mins).
Booking: MacDonald (Barnsley).
Referee: Robert Jones.
Attendance: 13,935 (664 away).