Barnsley 0 Burnley 1: Situation now critical as Barnsley slip up at home

Burnley's Ashley Barnes heads the only goal of the game past Barnsley's goalkeeper Luke Steele (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).
Burnley's Ashley Barnes heads the only goal of the game past Barnsley's goalkeeper Luke Steele (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).
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Oakwell has proved somewhat of a graveyard for Burnley in the past – but you would never have guessed it last night.

The Clarets have had too many dark days in this corner of South Yorkshire than they would probably care to mention, with one victory in 18 ahead of their latest appointment – a dire run stretching back to 1932.

But they chose the perfect time for a bit of choice payback as the Reds’ mini-renaissance was ended at a critical juncture in their campaign – to leave Danny Wilson’s side desperately seeking answers again in their fight for survival in the second tier for a ninth successive season.

While Burnley are tantalisingly close to a return to the big time, thanks to Ashley Barnes’s clinical early header, Barnsley’s own mission in 2013-14 is looking seriously precarious, with the Reds dropping to second-from-bottom last night and now five points adrift of safety with six games left following victories for Millwall and Charlton.

The outcome of victory may have been slender, but as 1-0 results go, this was one of the more one-sided ones with the Reds home form – an Achilles heel for large parts of the season – seriously flaring up once again at the worst possible time.

All told, this was the fourth game in which they have failed to score at Oakwell, let alone win.

A spot of controversy may have arrived in the weekend home stalemate with Brighton, courtesy of the hotly-contested first yellow card for Kelvin Etuhu – with the Reds playing a man light for 15 minutes – but they could have few complaints at last night’s outcome.

Twelve months to the day when Barnsley stunned another side destined for the top-flight in Cardiff with a last-gasp leveller from Stephen Foster, there was nothing resembling a repeat on a night when they failed to muster a meaningful shot on target.

Burnley fans were in full voice all evening, hailing their own special one in Sean Dyche – affectionately known as the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ – and gleefully belting out choruses of ‘The Clarets Are Going Up’ at regular intervals.

It was with good reason on a night when there were no Great Escape airings from home spectators. That will have to wait.

Just as Leicester did before them at Oakwell exactly four weeks to the day, Burnley – roared on by a bumper visiting midweek contingent just as the Foxes were – produced a high-octane opening, crowned by a sweet seventh-minute opener in their first meaningful attack.

Ben Mee supplied Michael Kightly down the left, whose fine curling cross was emphatically dispatched by Barnes, with a bullet near-post header.

The relentless visitors scented blood and, four minutes later, goal machine Danny Ings was denied a close-range effort on his return from injury when the visitors were penalised for a foul on Jean-Yves M’Voto.

Well-drilled, physically strong, swift and purposeful, the Clarets looked every inch a side on the cusp of promotion, with Barnsley pinned back for large spells of the first period.

It was all lapped up by the Clarets fans amid a carnival atmosphere, with the Reds faithful offered little to get excited about by contrast. Much emphasis was thrust onto the shoulders of the recalled Jacob Mellis, supporting lone frontman Chris O’Grady and, while there were moments of promise, it soon abated, with Tom Heaton untroubled.

At the other end, Barnes somehow spurned an excellent chance to double Burnley’s lead when he couldn’t bundle in at the far post before great work by Scott Arfield and Ings.

The Reds finally got some joy just after the half-hour with Tomasz Cywka’s cross finding its way to Dale Jennings, but his shot flew into the Pontefract Road end before David Jones fired over at the other end.

Looking more like the home side in the first period, with Barnsley forced to man the barricades, Burnley were entitled to feel a second goal would seal the deal, but to their credit, the Reds imposed themselves better after the restart.

Clear-cut chances may not have been in evidence, but the renewed intent was at least noticeable, although it took a fine save from Luke Steele to keep them in the game just before the hour.

Kightly, a stand-out all night, raced clear, but his slide-rule effort was saved by the fingertips of the Barnsley goalkeeper.

The Reds custodian was in the right place to hold onto a close-range shot and then header from Barnes while, at the other end, the Reds couldn’t manufacture the chance they craved on an evening when they had to fend off scraps against the division’s meanest defence.

Barnsley: Steele; McLaughlin, M’Voto, Nyatanga, Kennedy; Cywka, Dawson, Woods (McCourt 81), Jennings, Mellis (Noble-Lazarus 60); O’Grady. Unused substitutes: Turner, Proschwitz, Hassell, Hunt, Frimpong.

Burnley: Heaton; Baird, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Kightly; Barnes, Ings (Treacy 87). Unused substitutes: Cisak, Stock, Wallace, Edgar, Long, Trippier.

Referee: N Swarbrick (Preston).