Barnsley 1 Port Vale 2: Boundary Park return ideal time for Johnson to turn things round

Barnsley v Port Vale'SkyBet League 1'Sam Winnall scores for Barnsley'Picture Dean Atkins
Barnsley v Port Vale'SkyBet League 1'Sam Winnall scores for Barnsley'Picture Dean Atkins
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HOW certain Oldham fans would relish inflicting a record-equalling ninth successive league defeat on Barnsley at Boundary Park on Saturday.

The vitriol former Latics chief Lee Johnson endured on his return there last season will certainly turn to sarcasm to match if the Reds equal that run set in the 1952-53 campaign.

Tykes manager Lee Johnson.

Tykes manager Lee Johnson.

An eighth successive League One defeat should certainly have been avoided on Saturday and, taken in isolation, one would have to say that Barnsley were mightily unlucky.

However, there has to be more to it than misfortune when you lose eight on the spin and Johnson now knows he should not have solely turned to youth in his summer recruitment drive.

Only one manager has disproved the theory that you ‘win nothing with kids’ and Lee Johnson is no Alex Ferguson.

He is, however, an aspiring young British manager and the Barnsley board have surely learned lessons of the past.

Johnson is the club’s 12th permanent chief since Dave Bassett departed in 2000, so the board seem set to stick with the man they had to pay compensation to Oldham for as replacement for the manager who took the club into its one foray into the Premier League, Danny Wilson.

His return in December, 2013 could not halt the Oakwell club’s slide into League One that season and he was replaced by Johnson in February this year.

A necessary pruning of budgets has played its part in Johnson’s recruiting but he says about their predicament in the drop zone: “It’s not a big gap and we are not even halfway in the season yet. I believe we could be a really good side. I know it sounds like delusional almost because of the run we have had but I know what we need.

“I have always known what we need and we are two or three experienced quality players away from having a really good side and I believe that with all my heart.”

Of Saturday’s forthcoming trip he continued: “It does add a bit of extra spice going back to Oldham after the last game there and the way that went and the abuse that was aimed at me.

“I will have to get my shield up and get my two bodyguards like I had last time!

“Hopefully, it has died down a little bit (the animosity). I did feel it was a bit harsh because it was never as cloak and dagger as was made out. It (the switch) was probably the most amicable moving of a manager between chairmen, club and new club that I have ever known, yet people thought I had done the dirty on them which was completely not true.

“It will be a good place to start turning things around.”

The rot could have been halted on Saturday but, ultimately, Barnsley were undone as striker Ajay Leitch-Smith headed home late in the first half and Sam Foley struck in the 47th minute after a swift counter-attack from a Barnsley corner.

A 77th-minute riposte came from substitute striker Sam Winnall when a headed clearance from a cross struck a Vale defender and the ball rebounded into his path for an easy tap-in.

It prompted a stirring finish to a game Barnsley had dominated.

Conor Hourihane, who had lashed wildly wide at 2-0 down, was denied a late penalty – the Reds had a couple of other calls unanswered, too – after appearing to be shoved to the ground and he then saw a long-range drive narrowly deflected wide.

The Reds were applauded off the pitch but had still failed to follow-up the midweek JP Trophy win against York, which was rewarded with a trip to Wigan in the Northern Area semi-finals next month.

From midweek, James Bree had come in for suspended right-back Reece Wabara and striker Marley Watkins returned from a ban to replace Simeon Jackson.

Match-winner Adam Hammill also made his return, a league bow for the club he played for from 2009-11 after signing a two-month deal and 19-year-old Newcastle United prospect Ivan Toney, at Oakwell for 28 days, defied a debilitating stomach bug to lead the attack for 55 minutes as the 4-4-2 line-up worked.

It could have been so different had not Jak Alnwick produced a flying save to deny Hammill’s early long-ranger and had Alfie Mawson’s header from the ensuing corner not been cleared off the line.

Newcastle loanee Alnwick stood defiant throughout and so the Reds’ awful run continues.

Barnsley: Davies, Bree, Mawson, Nyatanga, G Smith; Isgrove (M Smith 62), Pearson, Hourihane, Hammill; Watkins, Toney (Winnall 55). Unused substitutes: Townsend, Jackson, Roberts, Abbott, Maris.

Port Vale: Alnwick, Yates, Duffy, McGivern, Dickinson; Moore, Grant, O’Connor, Foley (Daniel 80); Dodds; Leitch-Smith (Ikpeazu 68). Unused substitutes: Neal, Streete, Birchall, Hooper, Kelly.

Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).

Man of the match: Jak Alnwick.