THE sticky heat at Oakwell may have been thoroughly oppressive on Saturday, but no-one could accuse both derby combatants of failing to clear the air.
A goalless stalemate, yes, but one of the more watchable goalless games you would care to see, with Bradford City, after a start to the season best described as ordinary, in particular taking heart as they started to banish memories of the previous abject fortnight.
Barnsley’s kindergarten crew may have extended their unbeaten run to four matches, but the story, if there was one, was more about City laying a few ghosts in steamy conditions more suited to Bangkok than Barnsley.
After a ramshackle second-half in Tuesday night’s demoralising 2-1 home loss to Gillingham, which manager Phil Parkinson deemed unacceptable, City – backed by over 1,800 supporters – got back in the good books with a much-improved display.
Parkinson had made his charges sit through the showing against the Gills on Thursday. After the video nasty came a clearing of the air and a much more edifying spectacle at Oakwell, despite a few storm clouds by the finish.
As for Barnsley, some neat passages of play arrived from a fresh-faced side who are very much learning on the job.
There is plenty still to work on for sure, but if they continue to knit together nicely in the coming weeks and months, the smart money will be on the Reds making a noticeable impact in 2015-16 and entertaining a fair few folk in the process.
For Parkinson, the applause from the claret-and-amber hordes at the end while the rain lashed down was the antithesis of the scenes at Valley Parade in midweek, when he had no truck with his side being booed off.
The redemptive healing began at Oakwell, even if a few lingering questions remain, more especially about City’s need to sharpen up at the business end, heightened by Billy Clarke’s recent injury.
The visitors pressurised their derby rivals, particularly in the second half, but could not batter the door down.
Even when afforded help from the Reds, none moreso than in the 65th minute when Steven Davies raced clear after Josh Scowen’s error, but meekly dinked the ball wide of the advancing Adam Davies and the gaping goal.
Parkinson said: “We are still working on a few things. The more I look at it, I do feel it’s important we get another striker in.
“We want more options and we will be working towards that this week.
“We expect to get another one in before the window closes.
“It has been a blow for us losing Billy Clarke because he is real quality. But Steve Davies has got to keep hold of the shirt and I thought he played well.”
On the derby point, he added: “It was a lot better from us. It was disappointing on Tuesday. But we responded in excellent fashion.
“As the game went on, we got stronger and stronger and I should really be sat here talking about three points. But it was a proper Bradford City performance.
“That’s the best we have played over 90 minutes.”
Johnson also took solace from his side’s efforts, which almost yielded a late winner when defender Alfie Mawson saw his header rattle the post.
The Reds head coach had spoken about his youthful charges needing to ‘man up’ against strong and experienced opponents and they did that in main, producing some eye-catching football in spells, and digging in when required.
Johnson said: “I knew it would be really tough with two contrasting styles. But I thought it was quite a good game and advert really. I thought there were lots of positives. I come out of it a bit upset as we wanted to win, but knowing it was a decent point.
“We had demoralised them (before half-time) and they were looking like they were on the ropes. But we couldn’t quite manage to get a goal when we dominated and they regrouped at half-time and tweaked the shape.”
Johnson’s observations were valid ones, with the Reds enjoying a purposeful spell before the break with Sam Winnall and Ben Pearson both denied by smart saves from Ben Williams.
Earlier, the City goalkeeper almost presented Barnsley with an opener after failing to cope with Roberts’s long throw with Watkins hitting the outside of the post.
Bradford went close through Paul Anderson and Rory McArdle, whose effort was turned away by Adam Davies – and had the better of the second period.
It was Davies, who netted a derby goal for Sheffield United at Oakwell last term, who spurned their best chance. At the other end, City, for whom loanees Reece Burke and Lee Evans both had promising bows, had few scares until Mawson’s late header.
Barnsley: A Davies; Wabara, Roberts, Mawson, Nyatanga; Pearson (Harris 63); Watkins, Scowen, Hourihane, Crowley; Winnall (Wilkinson 76). Unused substitutes: Walton, Rothwell, Bree, Digby, Smith.
Bradford City: Williams; Darby, McArdle, Burke, Meredith; Anderson (Morris 67), Evans, Liddle, Marshall; S Davies (James 73); Hanson. Unused substitutes: Jones, Clarke, Knott, Mottley-Henry, Sheehan.
Referee: E Ilderton (Tyne and Wear).