Barnsley 1, Doncaster Rovers 1
(SkyBet League One)
(By Keith Lodge)
A first-touch equaliser by substitute Cauley Woodrow and a superb stoppage time save by goalkeeper Adam Davies prevented Barnsley from suffering their first home defeat since March and at the same time enabled them to stretch their unbeaten league run to seven matches.
However, they never really looked like chalking up a sixth successive League One win and Doncaster Rovers will feel aggrieved that they did not go away from Oakwell with all three points because, overall, they were the better side.
Right from the start they were quicker and smarter than the home team, both mentally and physically, but manager Grant McCann – a former Barnsley player – must have been driven to distraction by his side’s inability to take advantage of several clear-cut chances.
It was their own deficiency in this vital area, plus a tendency for players to stray offside at vital moments, which cost them victory.
As for Barnsley, they were well below the standards they have set for themselves in all departments and an obviously ‘up-for-it’ Doncaster beat them at their own pressing game.
There was one individual, however, who can be absolved from any criticism, and that is Ethan Pinnock (pictured) who was a defensive colossus – the Reds’ man-of-the-match by a country mile, despite the crucial contributions of Woodrow and Davies.
The centre-half came to his side’s rescue with a last-ditch tackle as early as the third minute and there was another scare for the Reds almost immediately when Alfie May’s shot was just wide of the far post with home defenders, as they had done on the previous occasion, appealing vainly – and foolishly – for offside.
After that Barnsley had more of the possession but it was the visitors who continued to look far more dangerous as they countered with breathtaking pace and they almost took the lead when James Coppinger rattled the bar with a goalworthy curler.
Gradually, however, the Reds began to pose one or two problems for the visiting defence. Kieffer Moore headed wide from a Dimitri Cavare cross; the same player drilled in a well-struck effort from just inside the penalty area but straight at goalkeeper Ian Lawlor; it was Moore again who blazed another attempt over the bar after three other shots in quick succession had been blocked by defenders; and Mike Bahre fired just wide.
But it was Rovers who went in front seven minutes after the break, taking advantage of one of several opportunities which stemmed from Barnsley players being caught in possession inside their own half of the field.
On this occasion it was Cavare, and space was thus offered behind him. Coppinger raced clear to offer an inviting cross and Herbie Kane rose to head home from close range, much to the delight of the 1,863 Doncaster fans behind that goal..
Moore had a good chance to level matters from a corner, but his header from just outside the six-yard area went over the bar.
It was then, on the hour mark, that head coach Daniel Stendel made a double substitution – George Moncur for Cameron McGeehan and Woodrow for Pinillos – which reaped immediate reward.
Two minutes later Brad Potts headed a Mike Bahre free-kick into the box; Rovers failed to clear their lines sufficiently well; Cavare knocked the ball back towards goal – and the alert Woodrow nipped in to toe-poke it into the net.
It was one of those instances often described as ‘an inspired substitution’ while the more cynical wonder why the player in question was not included in the starting line-up – especially when he had scored when doing so on his last two appearances.
Woodrow and Moncur both injected more urgency into Barnsley’s play and the former was in the thick of the action again shortly afterwards, having a shot saved after the latter had been involved in a good move down the left.
But sloppy play continued to be a worry. First Hedges was caught in possession, then Mahre, and on the second occasion it resulted in May being gifted a glorious chance to restore the visitors’ advantage, but, with only Davies to beat, he blasted his shot wide as the goalkeeper raced out to challenge him.
Now it was Rovers back in the ascendancy. Kane was a fraction wide with a great 25-yarder; Cavare came to the rescue with a desperate tackle; the same player then gave away a free-kick just a foot outside the penalty area and Kane, pulled it wide, attempting to beat Davies at his near post.
Then, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Davies flung himself to his left to make a magnificent save from a Coppinger effort that was destined for the bottom corner.
Credit must go to the visitors, who got their tactics absolutely spot-on. Their relentless harrying and harassing never allowed the Reds to settle, and when they attacked they did so with such penetrative pace the home team struggled to cope.
As for Stendel’s side, as has been suggested before, they need to produce their better performances more often if they are to maintain their top-six place, let alone challenge for automatic promotion.
Sunderland on Tuesday would be a good place to hit the highspots. Victory there would lift them above the Black Cats into second spot behind Portsmouth. It is an encounter that will provide a more accurate assessment of Barnsley’s chances of an immediate return to the Championship.
Barnsley (4-4-1-1): Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos (Woodrow, 60 mins); Potts (Thiam, 80 mins), McGeehan, Mowatt, Hedges; Bahre; Moore.
Doncaster Rovers (4-4-2): Lawlor; Blair, Mason, Butler, Andrew ; Whiteman, Crawford (Rowe, 69 mins), Kane, Coppinger; May (Wilks, 82 mins), Marquis.
Bookings: Cavare (Barnsley); Kane (Doncaster).
Referee: Michael Salisbury.
Attendance: 13,573 (1,863 visitors).