Norwich City 1, Barnsley 1
It speaks volumes for how far this young and largely inexperienced Barnsley side have advanced since they came together at start of the season that they were extremely disappointed to come away from Carrow Road with only one point.
After three successive defeats Norwich were clearly lacking in confidence and the Reds were unarguably the better side.
Unfortunately their performance took a dip when it came to creating chances and it was that lack of a cutting edge which prevented them from chalking up a notable away victory.
Head coach Paul Heckingbottom, now thankfully free from the distraction of being linked with the vacant Sunderland job following the appointment of former Wales manager Chris Coleman the previous day, added a second reason for his side’s failure to pick up all three points.
He referred to the way the Reds conceded an early goal. “That was the one thing that made me angry,” he said. “We knew they liked to take free-kicks quickly and on this occasion a few of the players thought a free-kick had been awarded harshly and turned to the referee instead of following the ball.”
His only other disappointment was the fact they didn’t work City goalkeeper Andree Gunn hard enough. “He had to make a few saves,” he remarked, “but not enough. We played well but we didn’t create as many chances as I would have liked.”
However, he took a more positive view when he concluded: “I always look at the bigger picture and we’ve come a hell of a long way in a short space of time. We are now a match for anyone in this league and we will keep getting better.”
Current form is certainly promising, with only one defeat in the last eight games and eight points accumulated out of the last possible 12.
There was, however, an early blow to their aspirations on this occasion. They had the better of the opening exchanges until the 12th minute when the free-kick Heckingbottom spoke so critically about led to the home team taking the lead, Josh Murphy’s shot taking a deflection which wrong-footed Adam Davies in the Barnsley goal.
That seemed to knock the Reds out of their stride and it was almost 2-0 shortly after when Nelson Oliveira’s shot just cleared the bar.
Chances remained rare but Adam Hammill did manage to bring a top-class save from Gunn following a brisk Barnsley counter-attack.
It was a different story after the break. It was a resurgent Reds who emerged from the dressing room and they were on level terms within two minutes of the re-start.
It was a gem of a goal, too, with Joe Williams sparking off the three-man move after winning the ball inside his own half; George Moncur taking it on and brilliantly setting up a chance for Harvey Barnes to tuck away his third goal in four games.
The Reds should have gone on to win it from that point, but they failed to make their superiority count where it matters. Andy Yiiadom did manage to bring a save from Gunn with a speculative 30-yarder on the hour, but that was as far as the Reds came to the winner until stoppage time when Moncur went close and Barnes finally tested Gunn again.
Had it not been for a splendid save by Davies, tipping over a shot from James Maddison shortly after the equaliser, and a superb block by Angus MacDonald from Oliveira, the Reds might even have been robbed of the one point they so thoroughly deserved.
Norwich manager Daniel Farke admitted that his side did not deserve to win, but that a draw was fair.
Heckingbottom; his players, and the travelling fans, would beg to differ.
The Reds now have the opportunity of two successive home games – against third-from-top Cardiff City on Tuesday night and derby rivals Leeds United in a televised lunch-time clash on Saturday – to continue their climb up the table.
But both are tough fixtures and will provide a further examination for a Barnsley side who, despite the impressive development they have already achieved, are nevertheless still on a learning curve.
Norwich City: Gunn; Pinto, Hanley, Klose, Husband (Zimmerman, 45 mins), Stiepermann, Trybull (Wildschut, 81 mins), Vrancic, Murphy (Watkins, 75 mins), Maddison, Oliveira.
Barnsley (4-1-4-1): Davies; Yiadon, MacDonald (McCarthy, 57 mins), indsay, Fryers; Williams; Hammill (Hedges, 67 mins), Potts, Moncur, Barnes; Bradshaw.
Bookings: Husband (Norwich); Yiadom, Williams (Barnsley).
Referee: Scott Duncan.