Barnsley 1, Southend United 0
(SkyBet League One)
(By Keith Lodge)
Barnsley head coach Daniel Stendel had admitted that the self-confidence of his players had taken a big blow after two away defeats in the space of three days.
And it is true that the two performances since then – both at home – have failed by quite a distance to match the earlier free-flowing goalscoring spectacles which had delighted fans dreaming of a swift return to Championship football.
However, what is encouraging is that the Reds have picked up a maximum six points from those two encounters, despite being well below their best. And that is what separates the successful teams from those who fall short of achieving their aims. If you cannot win handsomely than ‘win ugly’ as the modern idiom has it.
Stendels’s side had struggled to overcome Bristol Rovers the previous week and they struggled again when Southend were the visitors, a solitary goal being enough on both occasions.
The ‘Shrimpers’ were never going to be push-overs. And the way they dictated both the tempo and pattern of the game for the first half-an-hour provided an insight as to how they had won three away games on the bounce before bowing to second-from-top Sunderland last Saturday.
They were positive, pacy, full of confidence. When they had possession they slipped into a very attacking 4-2-4 formation and the Reds were hard-pressed to keep them at bay.
Under Stendel Barnsley have impressed with the gegen-press style favoured by their head coach, but here, for a while, they were beaten at their own game, out-pressed, suppressed and almost depressed as they tried desperately to add some rhythm and cohesion to their faltering play.
Harry Bunn was a livewire threat to the Reds’ defence. In the first few minutes he was only a fraction wide with a shot as Southend broke down the left; then he tested Adam Davies with a header and another effort from 20 yards, although well-struck, flew straight into the welcoming arms of the Barnsley goalkeeper.
Simon Cox fired into the side-netting following another swift raid by the visitors, this time down the left, and all the Reds could offer in return was a Kieffer Moore header which looped over the bar from a corner.
Somehow, however, the home team weathered the storm, and for the last 15 minutes of the half they began to push Southend back. Brad Potts sliced a shot wide from the edge of the box; Moore had a great chance as he powered his way down the middle only to be thwarted by a good save from Mark Oxley; and in stoppage time Potts volleyed just wide of the far post from close range following a pinpoint cross from Daniel Pinillos.
At the start of the second half Mamadou Thiam left-footed wide from a central position and there was a big opportunity for Bunn at the other end, but he delayed his shot too long and defenders closed in to clear the danger.
It was improving Barnsley who had the chances after that. A Moore header from Alex Mowatt’s corner hit the bar and Cameron McGeehan could not quite bundle in the rebound; a couple of minutes later Moore and substitute Ryan Hedges combined cleverly to set up Potts, whose powerful volley again hit the bar on its way over; and, as the game entered the closing stages Moore’s shot on the turn from just outside the box was comfortably saved by Oxley.
Debutant Cauley Woodrow, who replaced Thiam in the 65th minute, had the ball in the net only to be greeted by an offside whistle – a fate also suffered by the visitors on one of the rare second half occasions that they worried the home defence.
It therefore looked like ending in the stalemate of a goalless draw, but then, just three minutes from the end of normal time the Reds manufactured a hard-earned winner. They won another corner and this time Mowatt’s inswinging flag-kick was headed home by Moore (pictured) who leaped head and shoulders above defenders, and even the goalkeeper, to apply the coup de grace.
The Reds continue their sequence of five successive home fixtures with a trio of cup clashes – Everton Under 21s and Bradford City in the Checkatrade Trophy on the next two Tuesday evenings, and an FA Cup meeting with Notts County sandwiched on the Saturday in between.
Further successes – and they have not tasted defeat at Oakwell since March – should put them in good heart, confidence thus completely restored, for their next league game against seventh-placed Accrington Stanley on November 17.
Barnsley Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos (Moncur, 82 mins), Mowatt, Potts, McGeehan, Bahre (Hedges, 55 mins), Thiam (Woodrow, 65 mins), Moore.
Southend United (4-4-2): Oxley; Moore, White, Turner, Hendrie, Demetriou, Dieng, Mantom (McCoulsky, 68 mins), Yearwood, Cox, Bunn.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.