Shrewsbury Town 3, Barnsley 1
(SkyBet League One)
Barnsley never recovered from conceding two goals in the first 23 minutes – and losing key midfielder Kenny Dougall through injury – as they slumped to their second away defeat in the space of three disappointing days.
Those two matches against Charlton and Shrewsbury have provided salutory lessons for a team which had looked so masterful in the previous 3-2 home victory over Luton Town. If the Reds were under any illusions about the size of the task they face in bidding for an immediate return to the Championship they surely know the reality of it now.
Having said that, they suffered a pretty heavy dose of misfortune at the New Meadow. Not only were they robbed of the influence of Dougall as the result of an extremely reckless tackle, they had two efforts cleared off the line; hit the crossbar twice, and Shrewsbury’s second goal was courtesy of a wicked deflection off Alex Mowatt.
To top it all, head coach Daniel Stendel (pictured) was banished to the stands after tempers flared on the touchline in the closing minutes.
However, it is also rue to say that their first half performance was not what you might expect from one of the promotion favourites. It was anticipated that the Reds would bounce brightly back to make amends for the disappointment suffered at The Valley on Saturday, but they were strangely subdued in the opening 45 minutes, and Shrewsbury, riding their luck, took full advantage.
Goalkeeper Adam Davies must bear some measure of guilt for the first goal after only two minutes, his parry from a Josh Emmanuel cross falling straight at the feet of Greg Docherty, and the on-loan midfielder gleefully accepted the gift.
In the 21st minute Dougall limped off following a fierce challenge from Anthony Grant, who was booked, and two minutes later it was 2-0, a shot from Ollie Norburn hitting Mowatt before looping over the helpless Davies.
Only a brilliant save by Davies, in full atonement for his earlier error, prevented Fejiri Okenabirhie making it 3-0 before half-time.
To their credit, the Reds were much better on the resumption and after Joel Coleman had been forced into a brilliant save from a Mowatt power-drive the Reds pulled a goal back. Ben Williams’ cross found Kieffer Moore at the back post and when his header was blocked on the line Ethan Pinnock reacted quickest to slam home the rebound.
Shrewsbury reacted with a further period of pressure, but Barnsley survived and battled back in a brave bid to snatch the equaliser, and it very nearly came when a low drive from George Moncur, shortly after he had replaced Brad Potts, was scrambled off the line by Ryan Haynes.
Almost immediately, however, the Shrews added a third goal, skipper Luke Waterfall heading home from a Docherty corner in the 68th minute, and that put the game beyond the Reds, although Liam Lindsay struck the bar following a Mowatt corner three minutes from time.
Defeat left Barnsley fifth in the table with 25 points, the same as Luton Town and Doncaster Rovers, but with a superior goal difference. Portsmouth lead the way with 34 points, followed by Peterborough United (29) and Accrington Stanley (26).
Two successive home games against Bristol Rovers and Southend United provide an opportunity for redemption as they seek to get their faltering promotion push back on track.
Shrewsbury Town: Coleman; Bolton, Waterfall, Beckles, Emmanuel, Docherty (Barnett, 88 mins), Grant, Norburn, Haynes (Laurent, 66 mins), Angol, Okenabirhie.
Barnsley: Davies; Cavare, Lindsay, Pinnock, Williams, Dougall (McGeehan, 21 mins), Mowatt, Potts (Moncur, 61 mins), Bahre, Thiam (Hedges, 73 mins), Moore.
Bookings: Grant (Shewsbury); McGeehan, Mowatt, Hedges (Barnsley).
Referee: Scott Oldham.
Attendance: 5,587 (852 Reds).