Barnsley 0 West Brom 0: Asbaghi makes his point with Oakwell stalemate

It takes many skills to make a good game of football and whilst Barnsley’s against West Bromwich last night did not have nearly enough to qualify as one, the hosts still produced three moments of last-ditch defending to admire.

The least said about their attacking play, the better, but the Reds have to take what they can get at the moment, and last night a 0-0 draw constituted just that.

“It was the definition of a tough fight,” said Poya Asbaghi at full-time. “They are opponents who might be the toughest in the league playing this way but I felt we stood up to a fight.

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“But to be able to win these games you have to be better offensively. You have to be smarter on the ball, faster in your head.”

ouch: Barnsley’s Carlton Morris is brought down by West Brom’s Jake Livermore, during their Championship game at Oakwell. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Whether Asbaghi can complete the circle in time to keep Barnsley in the Championship has to be open to doubt, but at least he has a foundation.

Callum Brittain, Carlton Morris and Michal Helik all produced terrific blocks to keep out goal-bound shots on a night when they were in short supply, and Liam Kitching weighed in with two important tackles.

More than once before the game Asbaghi expressed the fear that his Barnsley side’s improved potency up front might have come at a cost defensively but even through the encroaching fog it was clear to see his players were hungry to keep the ball out of their net. It was the attacking they forgot to get round to.

Barnsley need wins rather than draws but they must have feared the worst when two ghosts of Christmas past emerged from the Oakwell mist.

Devante Cole on the attack for Barnsley. Picture Bruce Rollinson

When Valerien Ismael and Alex Mowatt were Barnsley employees last year, they won six December matches. A year on, the pickings are so Tiny Tim slim that every point in their stocking is cause for celebration. Wins are a distant memory.

If you are struggling to beat teams, you have to be able to defend and Barnsley were at least able to do that, keeping the threat to Brad Collins at a minimum even in a fairly one-sided match.

He was probably expecting a lot more to keep him warm when Cedric Kipre hit the woodwork from Mowatt’s deep third-minute free-kick but the Baggies’ bite never lived up to that early bark.

Not that there was a great deal at the other end from a side missing injured captain Cauley Woodrow. Playing in the hole behind split strikers, Callum Styles curled a good shot just over but Josh Benson’s swerving free-kick was the only other effort of note, tipped over by Sam Johnstone, and that came after half an hour.

Asbaghi sent his side out in a 3-4-1-2 with Brittain at left wing-back and they tried to mix up their play, far less direct than under Ismael, but not afraid to go down route one when required. A 25th-minute move showed that, the defenders fizzing the ball about in tight spaces deep on the right before launching it to Styles. Inevitably it came to nothing, “the Bury Baggio” penalised for backing in, but at least showed what the Swede is trying to achieve.

A good Baggies move down the right ended with Connor Townsend’s pull-back for Jordan Hugill, but Brittain did brilliantly to get back and in the way of the Middlesbrough-born striker’s goalbound shot.

Morris clearance four minutes before the break was just as important and got extra marks for style, his overhead kick stopping a corner being bundled in. It was the only contribution the striker was really allowed to make given the starvation rations he was feeding off and the rough treatment Ismael’s defenders meted out to him.

Kitching produced some good defending when former Sheffield United striker Callum Robinson was played in during the first half, and again when the ball fell for Hugill in the second.

Collins was forced into a good stretching save from Robinson’s deflected effort after 67 minutes, but it was about the only one and Kyle Bartley headed over from the corner.

Karlan Grant took the ball around the goalkeeper with 15 minutes left but the former Huddersfield Town forward must have reckoned without Helik sliding in brilliantly to clear.

Bartley headed onto the roof of the net and volleyed a half-cleared cross as his side cranked up the pressure late in the game but Barnsley’s defending deserved nothing less than a clean sheet.

Barnsley: Collins; Helik, Andersen, Kitching; J Williams, Gomes, Benson (Cole 64), Brittain; Styles; Iseka (Oduor 84), Woodrow. Unused substitutes: Walton, Moon, Hondermarck, Vita, Adeboyejo.

West Brom: Johnstone; Kipre, Bartley, Clarke; Furlong, Mowatt, Livermore (Molumby 72), Townsend; Robinson (Diangana 72), Hugill (Reach 90), Grant. Unused substitutes: Ajayi, Button, Gardner-Hickman, Fellows.

Referee: T Robinson (West Sussex)