Barnsley 2, Peterborough United 0
(SkyBet league One)
Another win. Another clean sheet. Another goal for Cauley Woodrow.
This was Barnsley, half-way through four critical festive fixtures against teams in the top eight, with maximum points and showing signs that the December dip is well and truly behind them.
Having already pummeled Peterborough 4-0 at the ABAX Stadium in October the Reds must have have expected a revenge mission reaction from United, but the visitors were again outplayed in all aspects of the game as Daniel Stendel’s side chalked up an emphatic double over their promotion rivals.
With attack leader Kieffer Moore having pulled out due to illness, Stendel had to revise his plans, switching to a 4-3-3 formation, which worked to perfection, mainly due to the commanding twin mid-field anchor role provided by Kenny Dougall and Alex Mowatt, a man-of-the-match performance by Dimitri Cavare, and a memorable goal from Woodrow.
Dougall marked his return after injury with a dominant display and his central midfield partnership with the equally impressive Mowatt must be one of the best – if not the best – in League One.
As for Cavare, he has often been the butt of criticism from some Barnsley fans, but on this occasion he was outstanding. He occupied the space available on the right to pose Peterborough all kinds of problems with his pace, and when he did venture forward, as he did so often, there was Dougall filling in the gap behind him, just in case the attack broke down.
With Ethan Pinnock and Liam Lindsay such an authoritative presence in central defence and Woodrow roaming to good effect up front, the Reds took control of the game right from the start and Peterborough were restricted to only one shot on target.
Stendel said he was ‘so happy’ with a win on his first Boxing Day fixture, adding: “We were the better team from start to finish”.
He also praised supporters for creating such a ‘special atmosphere’.
In the first 20 minutes Brad Potts had a shot deflected for a corner; Dougall found the target with a long-range attempt which flew straight into the arms of goalkeeper Conor O’Malley; the busy Mike Bahre miscued after being set up by Cavare, who then saw a goalbound effort hit a defender before diverting for another flag-kick.
All this Barnsley pressure was interrupted only once when a decision by referee Carl Boyeson to turn down a heated Peterborough penalty appeal had Posh manager Steve Evans in a state of apoplexy on the touchline.
Robbed of the height and physicality of Moore it was necessary for the Reds to try to play the ball into the box on the ground rather than in the air and this they did when making the breakthrough after 23 minutes.
Cavare made one of his careering runs adjacent to the right touchline, shaped as if to shoot, but instead accelerated to the by-line to find time and space for a cut-back across the face of goal which saw Mowatt sliding in to steer the ball home.
Five minutes later goal number two looked to be on the cards when Potts positioned himself to pounce on another cross, this time from the left, only for Ryan Tafazolli to nip in and hook the ball over his own bar.
An off-target header from Jason Naismith was all that Peterborough could rustle up in response and the Reds went close to doubling their lead two minutes before half-time when a Woodrow header was narrowly wide following yet another corner.
It seemed inevitable that Posh would come out for the second period with all guns blazing after the presumed dressing down from their manager, but it was the home team who continued to call the tune and a purposeful run into the box by Potts, after Cavare had won possession inside his own half of the field, resulted in Cameron McGeehan going so close to scoring that one section of the crowd thought the ball had ended up in the back of the net rather than behind it.
There was no doubt about the position of the ball less than a minute later when Woodrow conjured up a spectacular second goal with a right-foot shot from way out on the left which flew unerringly through the air into the far top corner.
A five minute period of frenzied activity continued as Mowatt was denied by the legs of O’Malley when a third goal looked certain, and, at the other end, Adam Davies was forced into a fine save from an angled drive by Matthew Godden which was Posh’s first – and ultimately only – shot on target.
In a desperate attempt to turn the surging tide Peterborough made two changes in the 55th minute, Siriki Dembele replacing Colin Daniel and Jason Cummings going on for Godden, but it made no difference. The wave of attacks from red half to blue continued unabated, and the number of times Barnsley went close to increasing their lead still further are too numerous to mention.
Peterborough had no answer to the energy and purpose of the flowing football of the home team, who consequently leap-frogged over their opponents into fifth place in the table.
Next up is Charlton at Oakwell on Saturday, when another win would take the Reds above their London visitors into fourth spot.
Barnsley (4-3-3): Davies; Cavare, Lindsay, Pinnock, Pinillos; Mowatt, Dougall (Adeboyejo, 85 mins), McGeehan; Potts (Brown, 73 mins), Woodrow, Bahre (Thiam, 77 mins).
Peterborough (4-4-2): O’Malley; Naismith (Lyon, 68 mins), Tafazolli, Ward, Daniel (Dembele, 55 mins); Bennett, Woodyard, Maddison, O’Hara; Toney, Godden (Cummings, 55 mins).
Bookings: Dougall (Barnsley), Maddison (Peterborough).
Referee: Carl Boyeson.
Attendance: 12, 843