Blackpool 0, Barnsley 1
(SkyBet League One)
One down, three to go!
Facing a crucial 10-day festive period in which they face four games against teams in the top eight, Barnsley made a good start by ending a four-match winless December run – which brought only two points out of a possible 12 – with a victory at Bloomfield Road which, in the end, was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
No doubt there will be tougher challenges to come against Peterborough United (5th), on Boxing Day, Charlton Athletic (4th) next Saturday – both at home – and then in-form Luton Town (2nd) away own New Year’s Day, but success at eighth-placed Blackpool will have restored confidence which had begun to sag a little after a run which had seen Daniel Stendel’s side slide out of the play-off places.
Blackpool put up a spirited fight in a scrappy but always competitive first half, but the Reds took total control in the second after an early scare, and they fully deserved to end a worrying run which had seen them beaten in four of the previous five away fixtures – and that must have pleased coach Andreas Winkler, who had expressed concern over results on their travels.
Pre-match he had observed: “We have lost two many away games. We have to stick to our style and improve our record.”
And they did exactly that.
Head coach Stendel again made changes from the side that drew 1-1 with leaders Portsmouth at Oakwell the previous week, with Mamadou Thiam and Liam Lindsay recalled to the starting line-up.
Thiam has yet to convince many Reds’ fans – 1,508 of them provided magnificent travelling support on this occasion – that he is worthy of that status, mainly because of his inconsistency, but he produced some excellent work midway through the first half to set up the first real opportunity of the game.
He rounded off a quick break down the left with a good cross to Cauley Woodrow, typically arriving in the right place at the right time, but the striker’s stretched stab at goal was deflected wide.
Thiam did not shine as brightly when set up by Brad Potts, who was revelling in the opportunity to play against his former club. Potts picked out Thiam with a pin-point low cross and although the latter brought a save from Mark Howard it was a very easy one and he should have done better.
So should Kieffer Moore seven minutes before the break when he headed straight at Howard from a Cavare cross.
At the other end Adam Davies improvised to make a fine close range save with his feet from John Sullivan as the half ended goalless.
It was Blackpool who threatened at the start of the second half, Cameron McGeehan clearing a Ben Heneghan header off the line following Thompson’s inswinging corner, but after that the Reds were in control, and just before the half-hour mark goal-saver McGeehan turned match-winning goal-scorer.
The goal resulted from a typically pacy and positive Barnsley counter-attack which began in their own penalty area. Cavare headed clear, then dashed out to fasten on to the loose ball and send Potts scampering away down the right before crossing low to find McGeehan charging in to head firmly home from close range.
Potts was also a mere fraction wide with a shot from the edge of the penalty area; the same fate befell Woodrow, whose clever curler deserved better reward, and Moore tested Howard in stoppage time as the Reds gained revenge for their early-season Carabao Cup defeat on the same ground.
The win restored the Reds to sixth place – above Doncaster Rovers on goal difference – and there was also an early Christmas present with the 90th minute return as substitute of influential Australian midfielder Kenny Dougall after a two-month injury absence.
Blackpool: Howard; Daniels, Heneghan, Tilt (O’Connor, 45 mins), Feeney (Davies, 75 mins), Spearing, Pritchard, Bola, Thompson, O’Sullivan (Nottingham, 70 mins), Gnanduillet.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; Cavare, Lindsay, Pinnock, Pinillos; Potts, McGeehan, Mowatt (Dougall, 90 mins), Thiam (Bahre, 80 mins); Moore, Woodrow (Adeboyejo 90+2 mins).
Bookings: Heneghan (Blackpool); Lindsay, Mowatt, Mahre, Moore (Barnsley).
Referee: Anthony Backhouse.
Attendance: 4,054 (1,508 Reds).