Gillingham 1, Barnsley 4
(SkyBet League One)
Barnsley extended their unbeaten league run to 11 matches with an outstanding performance, but they were left worrying about star striker Kieffer Moore, who was taken to hospital with a nasty injury.
Seven minutes from the end of normal time, with the Reds leading 3-1 and destined to retain the second automatic promotion spot, Moore was badly injured in an aerial clash with Gillingham skipper Gabriel Zakuani and spent 10 minutes having treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off.
It took the shine off another very impressive away success. Moore and Cauley Woodrow have formed a fearsome partnership up front, with 29 goals between them, and it will be a big blow to the Oakwell team if the former is sidelined for any length of time at such a decisive period of the campaign.
It had all started so wonderfully well for the big striker, who gave his side the lead after only 15 seconds. The lively Jacob Brown made a run down the right, Mamadou Thiam dummied to allow the ball run through to Cameron McGeehan, and when goalkeeper Tomas Holy could only parry the midfielder’s shot, there was Moore to smash home the rebound.
An unchanged Barnsley side continued to dictate matters. Moore had another effort saved and Woodrow missed a golden opportunity to add a second goal, but headed straight at Holy after an Alex Mowatt shot had struck the bar. The latter had another effort saved by the goalkeeper.
The home team, for whom a ninth defeat in 17 matches would send them tumbling into the relegation places, fought hard to get a foothold in the game, and Adam Davies had to be on his toes to turn a shot from Tom Eaves round the post for a corner.
It was Barnsley, however, who continued to look by far the more dangerous and on the stroke of half-time they doubled their advantage when great play by Thiam resulted in a perfect floated cross which was met with a looping header from Woodrow back across the ‘keeper into the opposite top corner of the net.
After a fairly quiet start to the second half Gillingham somehow survived a mad goalmouth scramble which saw several shots blocked, and five minutes later Holy was forced into a good save low down from Moore.
There was, however, no denying the Reds a third goal and it arrived in the 71st minute when Liam Lindsay flicked on a Thiam corner for unchallenged johnny-on-the-spot Woodrow at the far post to pick up his 11th goal of the season with a good finish from a tight angle.
Substitute Elliot List notched a consolation goal for the home team in the 81st minute, firing home through a crowded goalmouth from 18 yards, and shortly afterwards came the collision between Moore and Zakuani which resulted in 11 minutes of stoppage time.
It was right at the end of that period that Brown popped up to finish off more excellent work by Thiam wide on the left and complete very impressive victory.
Statistics show that Gillingham had more possession – 54% to 46% – but the Reds’ mastery is reflected by others which reveal that they had 24 shots to Gillingham’s six, with 14 on target as opposed to the home team’s two.
Results elsewhere generally favoured Barnsley, with Portsmouth and Sunderland being held to a draw at Plymouth and Oxford respectively, but in-form Luton continued to set the pace with a 3-0 home victory over Wycombe Wanderers and they remain six points clear of the Reds, who, however, have a game in hand.
Daniel Stendel’s side, with pace on the flanks, a strike-force of power and goal-poaching ability, a central midfield with the ability to control matches, a commanding defence and a reliable goalkeeper, have all the ingredients required by a promotion-chasing side – and there is a very capable back-up on the substitute’s bench.
They have, however, to continue to marry those ingredients with the right attitude on a regular basis if they are to succeed in their bid to make a quick return to the Championship.
It will be a great help if the injury to top scorer Moore is not as serious as it looked.
Gillingham: Holy; Fuller, Ehmer, Zakuani, Ogilvie (Charles-Cook 78 mins), Rees (Barrett, 65 mins), Byrne, Hanlan, Burke, King (List, 54 mins), Eaves.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos; Brown, McGeehan, Mowatt (Dougall, 79 mins), Thiam; Woodrow (Bahre, 72 mins), Moore (Green, 90 mins).
Bookings: Fuller, Ehmer, Zakuani (Gillingham); Cavare, McGeehan (Barnsley).
Referee: Trevor Kettle.