Accrington Stanley 0, Barnsley 2
(SkyBet League One)
Despite playing for the last 26 minutes with only ten men Barnsley became only the second team to bring all three points away from Accrington in the whole of 2018.
As well as the three points, the game provided the Reds with their third successive League win; it was also their third successive clean sheet, and it lifted them into third place in the table.
All of which adds up to the fact that they are currently producing the kind of results one would associate with a team capable of collecting promotion reward at the end of the campaign.
Wholesale changes in recent successful cup outings have also emphasised the club’s strength in depth; there have been other encounters where the Reds have collected maximum points while being well below their best; and this visit to The Wham Stadium illustrated yet another of their essential qualities – the ability to be able to still deliver the goods when circumstances threaten to derail them.
On this occasion they had not not only been forced to bring in a goalkeeper on emergency loan because number one Adam Davies was on international duty with Wales and his deputy Jack Walton was injured, they were also reduced to ten men in the 64th minute when full-back Zeki Fryers was sent off following a second bookable offence, and they were left to defend a slender 1-0 lead for the rest of the game.
They actually went one better, adding a second goal in stoppage time to seal an admirable victory in a game which highlighted the Reds’ fighting spirit and a toughness demonstrated by three first half bookings,as well as the later Fryers’ dismissal.
They were helped by a remarkable show of support from fans who made up almost half of the Stadium’s record attendance of 4,801. The Reds’ supporters never stopped singing, cheering and chanting, so much so that Cameron McGeehan tweeted afterwards that it had felt like a home game; Cauley Woodrow (pictured) said ‘the Barnsley fans were unreal’, and captain-for-the-day Kieffer Moore declared that there was ‘a great atmosphere to be around’.
There was just the one enforced change from the eleven who started the FA Cup tie against Notts County at Oakwell the previous week, the on-loan Jordan Smith, from Nottingham Forest, replacing Davies in goal, and Smith was put to the test in the early stages, finger-tipping a well-struck shot from former Barnsley player Jordan Clark over the bar and then diving low to keep out another good effort from Sean McConville.
Stung into action, the Reds responded with a typically powerful Potts’ foray down the right which ended with Dimitri Cavare bringing a good save from Connor Ripley in the Accrington goal.
Alex Mowatt, Liam Lindsay and Fryers were all booked as the Reds battled to gain the upper hand and their determination was rewarded in the 36th minute following an incisive move down the right. Once again Cavare was involved, his pacy run stretching the Stanley defence, and when he slipped the ball to Moore, the striker’s deft flick provided the ideal opportunity for new front-two partner Cauley Woodrow to apply a cool and calculated finishing touch from close range.
That was the prelude to a period leading up to the break when the visitors were in full control, and after Moore had sent a half-volley just wide they had a strong penalty appeal turned down when a header by McGeehan from a Mamadou Thiam cross appeared to strike the hand of an Accrington defender.
Barnsley were still in the ascendancy on the resumption and Thiam twice threatened the home goal with two long-range attempts, one being saved by Ripley and the other grazing the bar, but they had a reminder of how slender their lead was when Smith was forced into another good save, pawing a curling cross off the line.
Then came the Fryers’ dismissal following a foul on Callum Johnson and it could have provided a turning point in the game. However, head coach Daniel Stendel reacted by sending on Dani Pinillos and Jacob Brown in place of Woodrow and Thiam respectively in order to bolster the team’s defensive capabilities, and Stanley were unable to find a way through to threaten Smith.
The home team and their supporters must have been given additional hope of a late equaliser when the board went up to signal six minutes of stoppage time, but it was Barnsley who took advantage of that when Potts broke away down the left before letting fly with a shot Ripley could only parry, and there was top-scorer Moore on hand to snap up his 10th goal of the season and send the visiting fans into a frenzy of delight.
Accrington Stanley: Ripley; Johnson (Hall 77 mins), Ihiekwe, Hughes, Wilmer-Anderton, Clark, McConville, Finley, Barlater (Brown, 79 mins), Zanzala, Kee.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Smith; Cavare, Lindsay, Pinnock, Fryers; Potts, Mowatt (Bahre, 90+2 mins), McGeehan, Thiam (Brown, 73 mins); Moore, Woodrow (Pinillos, 67 mins).
Sending off: Fryers.
Bookings: Johnson, Brown (Accrington); Lindsay, Mowatt (Barnsley).
Attendance: 4,801 (2,352 Reds).