Burton Albion 2, Barnsley 4
A stunning second half goal from Barnsley’s Everton loanee Joe Williams proved the turning point in a game that could have gone either way at the Pirelli Stadium.
Until then it had been what the Reds’ head coach Paul Heckingbottom described as ‘a war of attrition’ between two sides battling to escape from the lower reaches of the table.
The explosive strike, as Heckingbottom also said, was ‘the first moment of quality in the game’, and it stunned his opposite number Nigel Clough, who remarked: “Their lad scores a goal like he will never score in his career again and that’s the difference between the two teams.”
He went on: “Having got back into it at 2-2 just before half-time we were on top all the way in the second half right up until that third goal.”
Heckingbottom admitted that the goal came out of nothing, but he maintained that his side had just begun to settle down before the game-changer, and it is true that the Reds looked better following a double substitution in the 67th minute, when George Moncur and Tom Bradshaw went on for McGeehan and Ugbo respectively.
“Burton make you earn everything and we knew it would be that way,” said the Barnsley boss. “We stood up to everything, but didn’t show any real quality until the third goal and that deflated them.”
Barnsley made four changes from the team which earned a point against derby rivals Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Saturday, Zeki Fryers, Brad Potts, Ike Ugbo and Lloyd Isgrove all being drafted into the starting line-up, and two of them combined to give their side the lead after a very scrappy and uninspiring opening 27 minutes.
Potts it was who paved the way for Isgrove to skip past a couple of challenges before finding the top left-hand corner of the net with a left-foot strike.
The Brewers’ response was immediate, Lucas Akins testing Adam Davies in the Barnsley goal and then being foiled by a brilliant block by Andy Yiadom.
It was, therefore, no real surprise when Matty Lund equalised with a far post header from a Jake Buxton right-wing cross in the 38th minute.
That sparked off a flurry of three goals in the space of 10 hectic minutes in the run-up to half-time.
Ugbo was very much involved when the Reds regained the lead in the 40th minute, driving forward from midfield before seeing his shot blocked by Burton goalkeeper Ripley, Potts following up to net from the rebound.
But then, in the third minute of first-half stoppage time, Albion levelled matters again, Lloyd Dyer cutting in from the right to net at the near post.
The start of the second period mirrored that of the first; plenty of endeavour from both teams but very little in the way of good quality – until that magical moment in the 74th minute, when Williams (pictured) pounced on a loose ball 30 yards out and sent an unstoppable half-volley screaming into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Cue ecstatic celebrations from Barnsley players and fans alike.
Burton came into the game having lost four of their previous five fixtures and the Williams’ strike demoralised them. Until that moment they had put up a fighting display which looked like earning them at least a point, but from then on the Reds were in control.
Harvey Barnes put the issue beyond doubt three minutes from the end of the 90 with his second goal in successive games and his fourth of the season as the Reds extended their unbeaten away run to three matches, in which they have taken seven points from a possible nine.
Burton boss Clough was still shaking his head in exasperation long after the game was over. “We’ve had two games and it should be six points – but it’s none. It’s very, very harsh on the efforts and performances that we have got no points. It’s very difficult to take.”
The difference, as he pointed out, was that one moment of sheer class from Williams.
Despite the victory the Reds remain in 19th position, but they now have a great opportunity to climb further up the table with a home game against fourth-from-bottom Birmingham City to come on Saturday.
Burton Albion: Ripley; Buxton, McFadzean, Turner, Scannell, Akpan (Allen, 63 mins), Murphy, Lund, Warnock (Sordell, 75 mins), Akins (Varney, 84 mins), Dyer.
Barnsley (4-3-3-): Davies; Yiadom, MacDonald, Lindsay, Fryers; Potts, Williams, McGeehan (Moncur, 67 mins); Isgrove, Ugbo (Bradshaw, 67 mins), Barnes.
Booking: Isgrove (Barnsley).
Referee: Jeremy Simpson.