Barnsley 0 Hull City 1
Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom, watching helplessly in the solitary confinement of the West Stand as the result of a two-match touchline ban, was both upset and angry as his side went down to defeat in this less than compelling Yorkshire derby.
“I said to the players that I’m upset for them and angry with them,” he said after the game. “Upset that we’ve not got the result – I can’t say deserved, as we didn’t take our chances. We didn’t capitalise when we were dominant.
“And I’m angry,” he went on, “because Hull’s two attempts on goal – or two on target I should say – both came from corners. When you’re not scoring, or not capitalising, at one end, you’ve got to be faultless in every other bit, so we weren’t today.”
The Reds had seven good shooting opportunities in the first half, but failed to find the target with any of them. Indeed, all but one were very high, very wide – or both.
Hull’s contribution was much worse. They had no attempts at goal – on or off target – no crosses, and no corners. And that must be an extremely rare statistic.
The Reds continued in the same vein after the interval until they finally managed to test Allan McGregor in the Hull goal late on, while the visitors belatedly came up with four on-target efforts, one of which resulted in the winner.
Barnsley made two changes from the side which started the game in the merited 2-2 home draw with Middlesbrough seven days earlier, Jason McCarthy coming in for Matty Pearson and Ike Ugo replacing Brad Potts in a switch from a 4-1-4-1 formation to 4-4-2.
And it did not take them long to put City on the back foot, Harvey Barnes firing over the bar in the second minute.
That was a taste of things to come. Zeki Fryers, Tom Bradshaw and Adam Hammill (twice) all missed by a considerable distance from good shooting positions, although admittedly outside the penalty area; Bradshaw glanced a header wide from a Hammill cross; and Cameron McGeehan had another effort deflected for a corner before producing by far Barnsley’s best effort with a shot that skimmed the crossbar.
And so it continued after half-time. Ugbo headed over from a great McCarthy cross; Hammill had a shot deflected just the wrong side of the post following an aggressive run by Joe Williams, and from the resulting corner Allan McGregor made the first save that either goalkeeper had had to make, blocking a Liam Lindsay header at close range.
Then, around the hour mark, the Tigers sprang belatedly to life, forcing three corners in rapid succession, and suddenly there was a sense that, if they were not very careful, the Reds could lose a game that they should have won with plenty to spare.
Sure enough, 12 minutes from time the visitors earned a fourth corner. Play was held up temporarily while Angus MacDonald went on in place of the injured Adam Jackson, and when the flag-kick was eventually taken Jackson Irvine escaped his marker to bring a save from Adam Davies, who could, however, only beat the ball away straight to substitute Fraizer Campbell, who steered home the rebound.
The Reds desperately tried to salvage a point from the wreckage. Hull survived a frantic scramble in front of their goalkeeper; substitute Ryan Hedges had a powerful drive turned away for a corner by McGregor; and Hammill went close in the last minute.
In the end Hull were delighted, not only to keep their first clean sheet at Oakwell since January, 1989, but also to record their first away league win anywhere since August 2016.
Whether it was deserved or not is another matter. But did they care?
The game itself was hardly the kind of spectacle to brighten an afternoon that got rainier and windier – and from Barnsley’s point of view, gloomier – as it wore on, and it is one best forgotten.
But there are things that need to be put right if the Reds are to earn any kind of reward from their South Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough next Saturday.
Judging by Heckingbottom’s mood after the game, they surely will!
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; McCarthy, Jackson (MacDonald, 77 mins), Lindsay, Fryers; Hammill, Williams, McGeehan, Barnes (Hedges, 63 mins); Ugbo (Thiam, 66 mins), Bradsahw.
Hull City (4-4-1-1): McGregor; Aina, Dawson, Hector, Clark; Bowen, Stewart, Larsson, Grosicki (Irvine, 62 mins); Henriksen; Dicko (Campbell, 62 mins)
Bookings: McGeehan (Barnsley); McGregor, Stewart, Campbell (Hull).
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Attendance: 13,624 (2,237 away).