Brentford 0, Barnsley 0
Barnsley worked hard to bring to an end a run of five successive defeats in a keenly-fought encounter at Griffin Park.
And there was a significant improvement in the Reds’ defensive play, which delighted head coach Paul Heckingbottom.
“I’m pleased we got the point we deserved,” he said. “In the second half in particular we were pretty comfortable. After five defeats against teams who have hardly any shots against us, we were beginning to wonder what we’d done wrong. But here we were a lot more ruthless and dogged defensively, and that against a really good Brentford side.”
Opposite number Dean Smith was frustrated by what he obviously saw as Barnsley’s overtly negative tactics. He opined, quite pointedly: “It’s difficult when teams come here with the intention of killing games off by whatever means possible.”
But then he added: “We had a very good first half and made chances but didn’t take them. We have to be better in our decision making.”
In Barnsley’s situation it is hardly surprising that they should make sure they did not concede the kind of goals that have been instrumental in that worrying run of defeats, and there has to be a certain amount of satisfaction that they kept the clean sheet they set out to achieve. It was, in fact their first in 18 Championship games stretching back to a 2-0 win at Blackburn in April.
But now there needs to be improvement at the other end of the pitch where they have scored only one goal – and that from a penalty – in the last six games, otherwise they are going to find it very difficult to haul themselves back up the table from a position of concern which sees them a mere four points above the relegation zone.
Whether or not that can be brought about with the current players is debatable, and it may need a dip into the January transfer market to strengthen that department, although Heckingbottom has proved adept at solving similar puzzles in the past, with hard work the ongoing mantra.
As he said after this success in taking the sting out of the Bees: “We’ve recruited players who don’t know this league, but we haven’t panicked and we’ve kept working just as hard to improve every day. If not, this league will swamp you.”
Brentford had much more possession than the Reds (64% to 36%), had 22 shots to six, with six on target as opposed to the visitors’ two, and the corner count was 13-3. Those statistics indicate what kind of game it was. The Oakwell team were largely on the defensive, relying on counter-attacks to try to snatch a goal – typical of so many encounters in football these days.
But the most important statistic shows that nothing could separate the two teams as far as goalscoring was concerned. And, having suffered the same way themselves this season, no-one could blame the Reds for being satisfied with the outcome of their game plan.
The first half brought relentless Brentford pressure, but the Reds maintained their shape and discipline and the home team’s goalscoring opportunities were kept to a minimum.
In fact, it Mamadou Thiam who produced the first noteworthy attempt with a shot from the edge of the box which went just wide.
After that, however, it was very much backs-to-the-wall for the Oakwell team. But how well they resisted. So much so that, apart from am Andreas Bjelland header that was cleared off the line by Jason McCarthy and a Yoann Barbet 25-yarder which brought a good save from Adam Davies, the home team rarely looked like making a breakthrough.
In fact, it was the Reds who almost achieved that just before the break when a Tom Bradshaw shot ruffled the side netting.
Heckingbottom had to make a change five minutes after the restart, Ethan Pinnock replacing the injured Matty Pearson in the centre of defence, but it made no difference to Barnsley’s resilience, and they even began to show much more as an attacking force.
Harvey Barnes forced Brentford goalkeeper Dan Bentley into a diving save following a well-worked free-kick routine; Bradshaw then tested Bentley again from close range; and Nico Yennaris almost turned a Moncur cross into his own net.
However, the Reds had Davies (pictured) to thank deep into stoppage time when he made a magnificent save from Ollie Watkins to prevent Brentford from snatching what would have been, from a Barnsley point of view, a heart-breaking winner.
It may not have been a particularly good game to watch, but, as far as the Reds were concerned, it was job done.
Brentford: Bentley; Clarke (Yenneris, 68 mins), Egan, Bjelland, Barbet, Woods, McEachran (MacLeod, 74 mins), Canos (Jozefzoon, 74 mins), Sawyers, Watkins, Mauphy.
Barnsley 4-4-2): Davies; McCarthy, Pearson (Pinnock, 50 mins), Lindsay, Yiadom; Moncur, Gardner, Williams, Barnes (Hammill, 89 mins); Thiam, Bradshaw.
Bookings: Sawyers (Brentford); Yiadom, Gardner (Barnsley).
Referee: David Coote.