Southend United 0, Barnsley 3
(SkyBet League One)
Barnsley produced what head coach Daniel Stendel described as ‘one of their best performances of the season’ to emphasise their promotion credentials with a particularly praiseworthy victory at Roots Hall which extended their unbeaten league run to 15 matches.
What separated this particular success from others during a captivating campaign was the fact that it was achieved playing with only ten men for 55 minutes.
When Jacob Brown was sent off for a knee-high challenge ten minutes before the break the game was goalless, yet the Reds went on to hit three goals without reply in the second half despite being a man short.
It was an exceptional result and Stendel was full of praise for his players afterwards, telling the media: “We showed another side to our play. It was important to play with heart. We needed to work much more together. The players did all that. I’m so proud of them.”
It is remarkable that ten-man Barnsley had 10 per cent more possession than their opponents and fired in 20 shots compared with the home team’s 10, hitting three goals from their five on target.
All this, remember, in the continued absence of top scorer Kieffer Moore, sidelined for the rest of the season in the aftermath of his head injury at Gillingham. No wonder Stendel was pleased
He made one change from the team which started the goalless draw at promotion rivals Portsmouth the previous week, Kenny Dougall replacing Mike Bahre in midfield, the Australian therefore playing alongside Alex Mowatt and Cameron McGeehan for the first time.
After Adam Davies had saved comfortably from Simon Cox early on, Dimitri Cavare broke clear down the right, set Brown off on a run and the latter’s cross found Mamadou Thiam 12 yards out and central to goal. Unfortunately for the Reds the resulting half-volley went flying over the bar.
After Mowatt and Cauley Woodrow had engineered another opportunity Thiam went closer, but not close enough.
The Reds continued to threaten on the break, with Cameron McGeehan and Cavare the next partnership to set up an opportunity, Woodrow this time having a shot well saved by goalkeeper Norman Bishop.
Then, in the 35th minute, came the sending off which threatened to ruin the Reds’ early afternoon televised excursion. Brown, just hours after it was announced that he had won the League One Young Player of the Month Award for January, went in recklessly with a high challenge on Sam Mansom and referee Kevin Johnson immediately whipped out the red card.
Barnsley were still recovering and re-organising when Michael Kightly engineered his way into the penalty area and curled in a shot destined for the bottom corner of the net until Ethan Pinnock launched himself into a brilliant block.
There must have been some reassuringly confident words from Stendel during the half-time interval because the Reds emerged for the second half in bright and bubbly fashion, Liam Lindsay having a header cleared off the line, and then, with only five minutes gone, McGeehan latched on to a loose ball and fired home in clinical fashion.
Southend were naturally keen to avoid the possible embarrassment of losing in front of their own supporters to a team with only ten men, and consequently surged forward in search of an equaliser, but their keenness in that respect resulted in space becoming available in their midfield and defensive areas and the Reds exploited it to the full.
In the 73rd minute the unmarked, unchallenged Bahre, gained possession in midfield, strode purposefully forward, spotted Woodrow in the box, found him with a precision pass and the striker rifled in goal number two.
Jason Green replaced Dougall a minute later and his pace provided even further problems for the home team, enabling the Reds to counter-attack even more effectively, and it was fitting that he should snatch the third goal. Again it was Bahre who set the move in motion; McGeehan’s shot was parried, and there was Green to tap the rebound into the untenanted net.
Three goals, another three points, and the third time that the Reds have beaten United this season, 1-0 in the league at Oakwell in November, and 4-2 on this same ground in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup in December.
Later in the day wins for Luton and Sunderland meant that there was no change in the top three, Luton striding away in pole position with 75 points, the Reds hanging on to their coat-tails with 70, and Sunderland, with a game in hand, looking ominous in third place just two points further adrift.
Southend United: Bishop; Bwomono, Turner, Moore, Hart, Klass, Manton (Koelman, 62 mins), Dieng, Kightly (Bunn, 61 mins), Cox, McLaughlin (Yearwood, 88 mins).
Barnsley: Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos, McGeehan, Dougall (Green, 76 mins), Mowatt, Brown, Woodrow (Jackson, 90 mins), Thiam (Bahre, 67 mins).
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Booking: Lindsay (Barnsley).
Sending off: Brown (Barnsley).