Barnsley 1 Bristol Rovers 0: Alex Mowatt keeps fortress Oakwell intact

Match-winner: 'Barnsley's Alex Mowatt celebrates after scoring  at Oakwell. Picture: Dean Atkins
Match-winner: 'Barnsley's Alex Mowatt celebrates after scoring at Oakwell. Picture: Dean Atkins
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BARNSLEY made the grade even though they were not in top form in extending their unbeaten run at Oakwell to 11 matches.

Head coach Daniel Stendel had noticed a dip in confidence after two defeats on the road so it was important that they got back to winning ways.

Equally so was the ability to cope without Australian international and midfield play-maker Kenny Dougall, who could be missing until the New Year after damaging ligaments in the 3-1 midweek defeat at Shrewsbury.

It was not only his midfield partner, Alex Mowatt, who stepped up to the plate but deputy Cameron McGeehan, who did more than most in getting the Reds on the front foot.

Both 23-year-olds have been sent out on loan in the past and have returned with a determination to prove a point – as did Mamadou Thiam with a blistering display off the bench after being dropped in favour of George Moncur.

It was Mowatt’s sweetly curled shot into the far corner from out of the area after Brad Potts’s lay-back from a low cross that proved the winner in the 11th minute and McGeehan said: “It was definitely a positive response after two poor defeats in a week.

“It was the type of performance we wanted with everyone sticking together and to their tasks. It was not pretty but three points have got the ball rolling again. We want to get promoted and need to be winning games. We need to keep pushing on.

“League One is tough in terms that visting teams do not always come to play and there are going to be games that are going to be physical as was the case on Tuesday when we did not match it. If we do, the performance will follow.”

Of stepping back into action in the 20th minute in midweek and earning a starting berth against the Pirates, he continued: “I was gutted for Kenny, who has done really well since he came in, but I have kept myself ready and knocking on the door and that’s how the chance comes sometimes.

“You have to take it and, hopefully, I can play a run of games now. “

Of his partnership with Mowatt, in the final year of his contract but in negotiations to sign another, McGeehan said: “Al is a good player and he’s been similar to myself last season when I also had to go out on loan to get some games. It did not quite happen for him at Oxford like it didn’t happen for me at Scunthorpe in terms of regular football but we know what the league is about now and we are both young and hungry players who can get goals. Al is a wonderful player and he is so clever on the ball andit’s a pleasure to play alongside him.

“When a new manager comes in it is a clean sheet for everyone. Al has played every game and it’s good to see that. You learn a lot from experiences and it is not always going to be rosy going on loan. It’s not going to be ideal but you learn a lot from it so you use that experience to help you this season.”

Having been given the lead by Mowatt, Barnsley let the visitors come at them and could easily have been pegged back by the break. Former Reds striker Stefan Payne was twice denied by Adam Davies in the 30th minute, firing a shot from the right which the goalkeeper tipped over and then being denied by a smart block after Ethan Pinnock missed his header when Daniel Leadbitter chipped the ball back in after the corner had been cleared.

Stendel admitted: “We stood too deep and were too passive – a consequence of the last two games. The self-confidence was not so high and you noticed it. I hope that the performance gives the team new self-belief.”

Stendel had them rallied for the start of the second half and Moncur saw a fierce drive thud off the chest of Bonham from Kieffer Moore’s nod down and Potts was also narrowly off target from 12 yards – Mowatt providing both opportunities.

Rovers made a triple substitution before Moncur gave way to Thiam, who was felled after bursting down the left and his free-kick from 24 yards struck the bar. He then blazed wide as the ball finally came back to him in the 79th minute.

The visitors threw everything forward and Barnsley fans, furious at a range of decisions which went against them, had their nerves tested before the final whistle.

Barnsley: Davies, Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos; McGeehan, Mowatt; Potts, Bahre (Hedges 84), Moncur (Thiam 66); Moore (Brown 75). Unused substitutes: Kendrick, Hedges, Bird, Jackson, B Williams.

Bristol Rovers: Bonham 3, Craig 3, Lockyer, J Clarke; Leadbitter (Bennett 64 ), Sercombe, O Clarke (Rodman 64), Lines, Kelly; Reilly (Matthews 64 ), Payne. Unused substitutes: Smith, Upson, Jakubiak, Partington.

Referee: A Backhouse (Cumbria).