Barnsley 1, Ipswich Town 2
A double substitution by Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy at the start of the second half completely transformed a game which had, to that point, been dominated by his home-town team.
The former Barnsley centre-half (pictured) conceded that opposite number Paul Heckingbottom, himself born and bred in the town, had got his tactics spot-on to thwart the visitors in the first half, but showed his own considerable know-how after the break by introducing two players who scored the goals which turned a 1-0 interval deficit into a full-time 2-1 victory.
When praised for his ‘master-stroke’ in the post-match press conference he merely shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and said: “When a manager makes two substitutions and they go on and win the game for you it’s great. But they have to take the credit. They haven’t gone on and shown their displeasure at not playing, they’ve gone on and won the game, which is brilliant.
“Barnsley had the better of the first half, but the changes we made at half-time made the difference.”
The Reds were, indeed, vastly superior to the visitors before the break and had it not been for Bartosz Bialkowski in the Ipswich goal they could well have had the game sewn up before McCarthy had the chance to do anything about it.
But the fact is that not even such domination reflected by statistics which showed Bialkowski had seven shots to save while his opposite number Adam Davies had none, could produce more than a solitary goal, and one had the uneasy feeling that might not be enough, especially taking into account the recent fragility of the Barnsley defence.
The anticipated half-time pep talk from the no-nonsense McCarthy might also be expected to have an effect. And it did. Although actions proved even better than words
Heckingbottom was torn between deflation and satisfaction when he addressed the media.
“To lose a game when the opposition had only two shots on target is deflating,” he said, “but the performance was there and there were lots of good things.
“I think we should have been out of sight at half-time. Mick McCarthy made changes and brought on a lot of experience. We played well today and lost, so we will have to play well on Tuesday night (Nottingham Forest are the visitors to Oakwell) and ensure that we win.”
Heckingbottom’s problem is that 13 players – mostly young with potential, but lacking experience at Championship level – have been brought into Oakwell during the summer.
The head coach is still assessing the newcomers; he is nowhere near being able to decide on his best team; and even when he does it will take time for them to develop the kind of understanding and cohesion necessary to compete on anywhere near equal terms with the many teams in the Championship who have much more financial clout.
Therefore patience will have to be the key word for Reds’ fans in these early days of the new campaign, when the team will need to eke out points when and where they can in the hope that by the time all the strengths and weaknesses have been identified they will not be too far adrift to make Championship survival too much of the proverbial mountain to climb.
Having said that, there were, as Heckingbottom suggested, some positives to take away from this defeat.
Joe Williams was impressive in his midfield anchor role, making interceptions, winning tackles and using the ball intelligently and purposefully when in possession; Ryan Hedges showed up well after two goals as substitute in the two previous encounters had earned him a place in the starting line-up; Moncur continued to make his own mark in the centre of midfield; Bradshaw was rewarded for a tireless performance with another goal; and full-back Jason McCarthy earned the supporters’ man of the match award.
Barnsley set off in barnstorming fashion, with three efforts on target – two from Bradshaw and one from Moncur – two others blocked, and a corner, all in the first five minutes.
Nor did they let up. Angus MacDonald headed over, Moncur had a shot cleared virtually off the line following two successive corners and Bradshaw rose to head home at the far post to give his side a richly deserved 14th minute lead.
Gradually, however, Ipswich began to come more into the game, but threatened only from a series of corners, and just before half-time Bialkowski came to the visitors’ rescue again with a splendid save low down to his left from Moncur and when the loose ball then fell to Hedges the ‘keeper was quickly back on his feet and in perfect position to make a rather more comfortable stop.
By this time McCarthy had seen more than enough to convince him that he had to make changes, so on went David McGoldrick for Miles Kenlock and Martyn Waghorn for Tristan Nydam.
The effect was immediate. Suddenly there was much more urgency and potency about Ipswich’s play and the Reds began to look increasingly insecure.
Within five minutes Adam Davies had to race out of his goal to save bravely at the feet of McGoldrick and two minutes later the goalkeeper could only stand and watch as a left-foot volley from the Ipswich substitute bulged the back of the net.
The Reds responded with a scissor-kick from Adam Jackson which was just off target following a corner, and good work by Adam Hammill set up a shooting opportunity for Brad Potts in the 68th minute, only for Bialkowski to make another save.
Barely a minute later it was the turn of the second substitute, Waghorn, to wriggle his way through the centre of a static defence to slide home what proved to be the winner.
All that was left for Barnsley was a promising cameo from yet another of the season’s debutants, Ashley Barnes, who saw a cleanly-struck shot turned away by the defiant Bialkowski.
The two Ipswich subs might have been the visitors’ goalscoring heroes, but had it not been for their goalkeeper they might never have been in a position to make such a dramatic impact on the game.
Barnsley (4-1-4-1): Davies; McCarthy, Jackson, MacDonald, Pearson; Williams; Hammill (Barnes, 79 mins), Moncur, Potts, Hedges (Payne, 77 mins), Bradshaw (Ugbo, 56 mins).
Ipswich: Bialkowski; Iorfa, Knudsen, Chambers, Skuse, Spence, Garner, Sears, Downes (McDonnell (76 mins), Nydam (Waghorn, 45 mins), Kenlock (McGoldrick, 45 mins).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham.
Bookings: Jackson (Barnsley); Iorfa, Knudsen (Ipswich).
Attendance: 12,009 (870 visitors).