Barnsley 2, Wycombe Wanderers 1
(SkyBet League One)
(By Keith Lodge)
A sending-off, five bookings, two penalties, 12 minutes of second half stoppage time and three goals!
No-one could complain about lack of incident or talking points in a game which saw Barnsley stretch their unbeaten League run to 12 matches and strengthen their second-from-top automatic promotion position.
In between the mayhem the Reds, while nowhere near their compelling best, produced flashes of football worthy of such a team, and, but for a lack of finishing nous and a tendency for over-elaboration, the margin of victory would have been far greater.
With top scorer Kieffer Moore sadly sidelined after being concussed in the previous week’s impressive dismantling of Gillingham, the onus for the production of goals fell largely on the shoulders of strike partner Cauley Woodrow, and he turned up trumps with a match-winning brace.
Woodrow’s overall performance earned him the fans’ man of the match accolade, but Alex Mowatt, with four monthly awards in his trophy cabinet already this season, was equally worthy of the former honour and was suitably acclaimed when he was substituted four minutes from the end of the regulation 90.
Moore’s physical presence was missed up front, otherwise the team adapted well to his absence. His replacement, Mike Bahre, may have been a little for large change in respect of stature, but not in ability – especially of a more technical nature – and the German made the most of a rare appearance in the starting line-up.
In defence, Nathan Pinnock was as masterful as ever, and was unlucky to have a debatable penalty decision go against him deep into stoppage time.
Although the Reds found it difficult to find their rhythm against defence-minded opposition there is no doubt that they were full value for their revenge victory over a team which was the last to beat them way back in early December.
Wycombe are a very good, well organised team and on that previous occasion Daniel Stendel’s side were stymied by the Chairboys’ ‘no risk football’ game plan.
Stendel claimed his side had learned their lesson from that, and it is true that the Reds have since beaten several teams who adopted a similar approach, but early signs in this return encounter were not very promising.
The Wanderers tore into the home team from the first whistle, obviously intent on upsetting their rivals’ composure once again, and, with former Red Jason McCarthy a particularly keen and speedy threat down the right flank, the danger signs were there for all to see.
However, Wycombe’s confidence was severely dented when they fell behind following a disputed penalty decision in the 11th minute, Bahre being brought down by Luke Bolton after tip-toeing into the box and Woodrow sending goalkeeper Ryan Allsop the wrong way from the spot.
Clearly rattled, the visitors retreated further and further into a defensive shell and the Reds assumed control, only an acrobatic save by Allsop from a deflected 25-yarder from Dani Pinillos preventing the home team from adding a second goal 11 minutes later.
Further pressure, however, failed to find a way through the disciplined opposition defence until a minute before the break when Allsop was forced into another fine save at close range from the unmarked Mowatt, who probably should have scored. It was a great chance gone begging.
Wanderers were reduced to occasional counter-attacks and it was not until the 39th minute that they were able to conjure up their first attempt at goal, Adam Davies responding with a terrific save at almost point-blank range when the unchallenged Nick Freeman seemed certain to score after the ball had been played in from the right.
The visitors started the second half in similar fashion to the first, and their up-an-at-’em attitude brought three threatening corners in the first six minutes, Dominic Gape finding the target following the third with a shot that was far too weak and central to cause Davies any problems.
Once again, however, Gareth Ainsworth’s side lost their early momentum and after a Cameron McGeehan effort had been parried by Allsop, a Barnsley substitution reaped immediate reward.
Having replaced a largely ineffective Mamadou Thiam on the left, Ryan Hedges’ opened the way with a searing sprint down the touchline and Jacob Brown combined to set up an opportunity for Woodrow to lash home his second goal of the game and his fourth in the last two encounters, giving him a total of 15 for the season.
Woodrow went within a whisker of completing his hat-trick when he had a header turned over the bar by Allsop, but Hedges blotted his copybook by missing two great chances as the Reds sought to put the result beyond doubt.
The game had been held up for seven minutes when Luke Bolton was knocked unconscious in an accidental collision and subsequently there were 10 minutes of stoppage time, which stretched to 12 before referee Matthew Donohue eventually blew the final whistle.
During that time Wycombe had captain Adam El-Abd sent off for his reaction to a reckless – and foolish – tackle by McGeehan, and then reduced arrears from the penalty spot after Pinnock was adjudged to have brought down Scott Kashket.
It looked a harsh decision. And head coach Stendel claimed it wasn’t a penalty. But then, not suprisingly, Wycombe said much the same about the one awarded to the Reds in the first half.
Who’d be a referee, eh?
As it was, Joe Jacobson netted, as Woodrow had done earlier, to provide the visitors with a consolation goal which came far too late – the tenth minute of time added on – to offer any hope of a point as well.
The three points earned by a Reds’ performance lacking somewhat in class, but chock full of spirit and competitiveness, were made to look even more precious by the fact that earlier in the day promotion rivals Portsmouth had tossed away a 3-0 lead when drawing 3-3 away at Southend, and the previous evening Sunderland had been held to a 2-2 draw at home to 16th-placed Accrington Stanley.
The upshot is that Barnsley, are now five points clear of third-placed Portsmouth and six better off that Sunderland – with a re-arranged home game with Burton Albion to come on Tuesday night. And they have not been beaten at Oakwell since March last year.
Coincidentally, what follows are visits to Portsmouth and Southend and then home fixtures against Accrington Stanley and Sunderland!
Barnsley (4-2-3-1): Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos; Mowatt (Dougal, 86 mins), McGeehan; Brown, Woodrow, Thiam (Hedges, 61 mins); Bahre.
Wycombe Wanderers (4-4-2): Allsop; McCarthy, Jombati, El-Abd, Jacobson; Bolton (Tyson, 60 mins), Gape, Thompson, Freeman (Akinfenwa (66 mins); Samuel, Cowan-Hall )Kashket, 66 mins).
Bookings: McGeehan (Barnsley); Jombati, Gape, Bolton, McCarthy (Wycombe).
Sending-off: El-Abd (Wycombe).
Referee: Matthew Donohue.
Attendance: 11,821 (411 Wycombe).