Barnsley 4, Morecambe 3
(Caraboa Cup, first round)
It was only the Caraboa Cup; the opposition was only from League Two; and it was by no means convincing, but it was still cause for celebration that Barnsley managed to record their first home win since January 27.
Whether that is sufficient to bring a ray of hope to the pre-season pessimism at Oakwell remains to be seen. A far tougher test awaits with the Championship visit of Ipswich Town on Saturday.
At least the Reds showed that their attacking capabilities might have been underestimated, with Tom Bradshaw notching a brace, impressive Chelsea loanee Ike Ugbo using his pace to open up the Morecambe defence to force an own-goal third, and substitute Ryan Hedges (pictured) notching a gem of a winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
At least three other good chances were tossed away, and therefore the home team’s passage to the second round could have been much more comfortable.
On the other hand, the fact that the Reds conceded three goals at home to a side from the bottom tier of the Football League emphasises the fact that defensive frailties were again only too apparent.
There remains a need to strike the right balance between attack and defence so that one does not suffer at the expense of the other.
Head coach Paul Heckingbottom is well aware of the fact and he made the point that with so many new faces in the side it will take time for them to gel.
The apparent lapses of concentration which caused the Reds to twice squander a two-goal lead may have resulted from the lack of understanding between players who have yet to become familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of their new colleagues.
Barnsley could not have wished for a better start, with the energetic Bradshaw pouncing as early as the second minute to give them a confidence-boosting lead, and the striker almost added a second 10 minutes later, just failing to get sufficient contact on the ball after a visionary Adam Hammill pass had split the visitors’ defence .
The Reds were not to be denied, however, and they did double their advantage after another 10 minutes had elapsed, Ugbo’s searing pace sending him streaking free down the right and his attempted cross from the bye-line went in off a desperately back-tracking Morecambe defender.
It looked at that stage as though the only discomfort was going to come from the persistent rain on an unsually chilly August evening, but poor marking from the second of two corners in quick succession in the last minute of the first half presented Sam Lavelle with the opportunity of pulling a goal back from the edge of the penalty area.
When Bradshaw repeated his first half sprint out of the blocks with an even quicker goal at the start of the second, this time heading in a Hammill cross, it seemed that the Reds were back on track, but three minutes later they again provided their visitors with a route to recovery.
Poor decision making in a crowded goalmouth resulted in a penalty which was duly thumped home by the Shrimpers’ skipper Michael Rose and the tie was wide open again.
Then followed missed opportunities by Brad Potts, with a complete mis-kick, and Bradshaw, who ballooned the ball over the bar from close range. Substitute Stefan Payne was also inches away from making sliding contact with a low cross from Potts, and a Bradshaw header was cleared virtually off the line by Kevin Ellison.
However, Morecambe were also threatening, with Davies having to make good saves in quick succession from Ellison and Vadaine Oliver, and with nine minutes of the 90 remaining the latter headed home from a Garry Thompson cross after the day-dreaming Reds had been caught out by a free-kick routine.
Back came Barnsley. There was another chance for Potts, but Danijel Nizic reacted more quickly and made a vital block.The visiting ‘keeper then comfortably gathered a Bradshaw flick and did likewise with a rather more powerful long-range attempt from Andy Yiadom.
Then, with four of the five added on minutes having already gone and extra-time looming large, up stepped Hedges, scorer of the Reds’ stoppage time consolation goal in the 3-1 opening day defeat at Bristol, to go one better with a stoppage time winner.
He had been on the pitch only five minutes after replacing Potts in the last minute of normal time when he created a little bit of space for himself outside the area and curled in a shot worthy of winning any match.
It spared Barnsley’s blushes – and could well have earned him a place in the starting line-up for the first home league game on Saturday!
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; Pearson, MacDonald, Pinnock, Yiadom; Potts (Hedges, 89 mins), Moncur, Williams (Mowatt, 89 mins), Hammill; Ugbo, Bradshaw.
Morecambe (5-2-1-2): Nizic; McGowan, Lund (Ellison, 50 mins), Lavelle, Kenyon, Broough; Flemming, Rose; Campbell (Simpson, 69 mins); Turner (Deakin, 73 mins), Oliver.
Bookings: Yiadom, Potts (Barnsley); Campbell, Lavelle, Thompson (Morecambe).
Referee: Darren Bond.