Barnsley 3 Bradford City 1: Tykes’ spirit is rewarded but Bantams disappoint

Lewin Nyantanga heads past Bradford keeper Jordan Pickford to level scores at 1-1.
Lewin Nyantanga heads past Bradford keeper Jordan Pickford to level scores at 1-1.
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NOT as sweet as Barnsley’s victory against their West Yorkshire rivals on April 26, 1997, but pretty good for Reds supporters nevertheless.

That Spring afternoon 17 and a half years ago when Barnsley triumphed 2-0 to book their place in the top flight for the first and so far only time in their history arguably represented Danny Wilson’s finest managerial hour.

Fast forward to yesterday and the Reds’ chief was afforded another choice occasion against Bradford, albeit without the ecstatic highs of that day.

No one could argue with the merit of the three points earned by the Reds, with the purpose, resolution and streetwise solidity that had characterised Bradford on their travels so far this season dissolving at Oakwell.

It was all somewhat underwhelming from the Bantams, who over the past few years can hardly be described as camera-shy, having reserved their best for several matches on Sky TV in modern times, most recently against Leeds United earlier this season.

But the star entertainment on this occasion was provided by Barnsley, who secured back-to-back wins for the first time this season in some style and their first in the league at Oakwell since August 23.

Having thrown down the gauntlet to his strikers ahead of the game, Wilson’s words were clearly heeded with man of the match Sam Winnall crowning an excellent performance with a predatory second goal for the Reds and late replacement Kane Hemmings netting a late third in stoppage time.

This said, Barnsley did things the hard way after trailing 1-0 inside the first minute, showing commendable character and spirit given their travails at Oakwell this calendar year, which had seen them triumph in just five of their previous 15 matches in all competitions.

Bradford had enjoyed a serene start to the season in comparison to their rivals and, bathed in autumnal sunshine in the away end, the sizeable City contingent were in good voice from the first whistle and were on their feet as early as the 44th second.

Matters on the road have invariably gone City’s way so far this term and Jason Kennedy fired them in front in the opening minute.

Neat build-up play instigated by Mark Yeates, playing in the pocket just behind Aaron Mclean and Billy Clarke, ended with him supplying the industrious midfielder, whose drilled low shot found its way past Ross Turnbull, although the goalkeeper did get a touch to it.

For a side reeling after successive home losses to Swindon Town and MK Dons, it was a further blow in the solar plexus for Barnsley, all this against a side so consistent on their travels.

To their credit, Barnsley refused to feel sorry for themselves and attempted to make things happen with an eye-catching save from Jordan Pickford denying them a leveller on eight minutes when he clawed away Luke Berry’s piledriver.

It was the outstanding contribution of an accomplished first-half showing from the Sunderland loanee, who also displayed his mettle to deny lone frontman Winnall, twice, and also divert a goalbound shot from Conor Hourihane, who added to his burgeoning reputation with a polished performance.

Fresh from his magnificent strike in midweek at Oldham, former League Two Golden Boot winner Winnall saw a fierce strike beaten away by Pickford, with the England Under-20 international also grasping a header in the nick of time from the forward just before the interval.

Winnall, who took the fight to City’s rearguard all game, also clipped the woodwork with a firmly-struck shot after good work from Devante Cole, who provided support for the former Scunthorpe forward alongside another loanee, Ryan Williams.

After the perfect start, the visitors lacked urgency for the most part and seemed content to try to wait for things to happen rather than take the initiative and in the final analysis, they paid the price for that.

Their only other threatening first-half moment came when Billy Clarke hooked the ball wide after Rory McArdle flicked on Alan Sheehan’s corner.

The only thing lacking in a very presentable first half from the Reds was a goal, but supporters did not have to wait long for some overdue reward on the restart.

It came three minutes in when an exemplary free-kick delivery on the right by Hourihane begged to be attacked and, unfortunately for Bradford, the telling contribution arrived from McArdle, who diverted the cross past Pickford while under considerable pressure from Lewin Nyatanga.

The goal visibly lifted and energised the crowd, with Barnsley assuming the box seat for the rest of the game, while Bradford, attacking their 2,000-strong support, flattered to deceive.

Winnall shot wide before he then claimed his prize, scoring the sort of poacher’s goal which persuaded Wilson to fork out a six-figure fee to beat several rivals for his services in the summer.

Again, Hourihane manufactured proceedings, setting up the overlapping Nyatanga, whose low cross was dispatched clinically and joyously by Winnall.

Winnall was then denied by Pickford, who made another smart stop, and at the other end, in a rare foray, Kennedy hared away down the right, but no one got a touch to his ball across the face of goal.

Hourihane then fired wide before substitute Ollie McBurnie struck a half-chance into the away stand.

Deep in stoppage time, gloss was put on an uplifting day for the hosts when substitute Hemmings coolly slotted the ball past Pickford for the hosts’ third after Hourihane’s effort was blocked.

It was fitting as the day had seen the hosts have 22 efforts on goal, with Bradford managing just one effort on target.