AS the citizens of Barnsley prepared to remember a significant day in its history, Leicester City had their own recollections of the South Yorkshire town – and emphatically ensured there was no repeat.
The Reds took to the field last night on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the miners’ strike, which began on March 12, 1984.
Leicester’s thoughts were to do with April 1, 2013, an afternoon in which they were made to look fools in a 2-0 defeat at Oakwell, described by several of their players as their low point in the regular season of 2012-13.
Nigel Pearson’s flying Foxes achieved payback for that with a classy away success when the margin of victory, achieved through two goals from former Stocksbridge Park Steels and Halifax marksman Jamie Vardy and a strike from ex-Reds loanee Danny Drinkwater, was by no means flattering.
As home manager Danny Wilson correctly alluded to beforehand, it will only be a matter of time before Leicester are dining again at the top-flight table.
While Barnsley produced a coupon-buster of sorts to sink Nottingham Forest on Saturday, they never threatened a repeat last night, thoroughly dominated from start to finish.
It ensures that the Reds’ wait for back-to-back wins this term goes on following a day in which a burst water main caused temporary delays for match-day traffic heading to Oakwell and Leicester threaten a goal deluge.
Salt was rubbed into the Reds’ wounds by the sight of first-choice central defenders Martin Cranie and Peter Ramage succumbing to injury, which will probably worry Wilson just as much as the result, if not more.
The mercurial skills of Paddy McCourt were called upon from the start for the first time since December 29, with the Northern Irishman supporting Chris O’Grady. As McCourt entered the fray, so Brek Shea became a footnote in Barnsley history, but not before taking a little dig at the club’s expense after posting an unsubtle message of “happy to be back” on his Instagram account after returning to parent club Stoke City.
It is fair to say Barnsley fans will not have bemoaned his departure amid the fall-out of his unfortunate gesture towards supporters at Huddersfield and a decidedly average loan spell.
It was not only Shea, but the entire Reds playing staff who needed to get back in supporters’ good books following a terrible derby showing, with their dogged weekend victory over Forest suggesting their appetite for the fight remained intact.
That resolve was tested to the limit and it was a minor victory in itself that the Reds were still in the game at only 1-0 down at the interval.
A combination of some desperate last-ditch defending, sterling goalkeeping from Luke Steele and a lack of a ruthless edge from Leicester kept Barnsley just about in proceedings when, on another day, the game could have been beyond them.
Leicester’s efforts might have yielded three goals in the opening nine minutes. First, Anthony Knockaert saw his cracking 30-yarder strike an upright before Steele turned away a low goalbound shot from Riyad Mahrez after Peter Ramage’s error.
David Nugent then seized upon a loose ball from McCourt to send Vardy clear, with a combination of Steele and captain Martin Cranie denying him, with the latter, still feeling the after-effects of that last-ditch challenge, soon replaced by Jean-Yves M’voto.
The centre-half was afforded no time to bed in whatsoever and it was his hesitant defending which helped serve up an opener for Leicester on 21 minutes.
M’Voto clocked off and allowed Vardy to race away after being supplied by the impressive Nugent and this time he made no mistake in clinically flying the ball low past Steele.
Barely able to draw breath, never mind get a toehold in the game, the Reds were on the ropes for virtually the entire first half, with Leicester exuding title panache. The pattern of the second period followed the first, with the lively Mahrez firing wide as Leicester sought a third.
Saturday’s hero Dale Jennings blasted over in a rare home attack before two goals in four minutes either side of the hour mark put the game to bed.
First, Vardy’s low cross was despatched by Drinkwater before fine work by Mahrez ended in Vardy slotting home his second.
It was now plainly damage limitation for the Reds, and thankfully there were no further concessions, despite Mahrez and Chris Wood going close.
Barnsley: Steele; Hunt, Ramage (Nyatanga 54), Cranie (M’Voto 11), Kennedy; Mellis, Dawson, Woods, Jennings; McCourt (Proschwitz 46), O’Grady. Unused substitutes: Turner, Lawrence, Cywka, Noble-Lazarus.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; De Laet, Wasilewski, Morgan, Schlupp; Knockaert (Hammond 78), James, Drinkwater, Mahrez; Nugent (Wood 65), Vardy (Taylor-Fletcher 67). Unused substitutes: Logan, King, Moore, Phillips.
Referee: M Heywood (Cheshire).