Barnsley 1 Reading 1: Reds claim key point after Joao howler

IN A WEEK when the late, great Jack Charlton featured in a memorable TV documentary, his famous footballing mantra of ‘Put ‘Em Under Pressure’ came into focus at Oakwell.

Oakwell.

A one-time resident of Barnsley, Charlton - who lived for a spell in Worsbrough and was a regular at the Red Lion pub - would have surely admired the Reds’ playing ethos under another former centre-half in Valerien Ismael

Like Charlton’s hugely successful Republic of Ireland team, it is based on pressurising opponents, being strong at set-plays and not messing around at the back - allied to a ferocious work ethic. And an ability to play in the right areas.

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There was direct talk of pressure heading into this meeting of two-play off candidates. If you listened to Reds head coach Valerien Ismael, it was firmly on the shoulders of Reading, whose manager Veliko Paunovic admitted beforehand that this game was his side’s biggest of the season.

The visitors started the game outside of the top-six after Bournemouth’s win over Middlesbrough, but showed their mettle in a high-stakes contest - which would have yielded victory but for an incredible miss by former Sheffield Wednesday striker Lucas Joao.

Presented with an open goal after Callum Styles’ blind backpass picked out Yakou Meite, who challenged Brad Collins, Joao incredibly steered the ball wide of the net in a real miss of the season contender.

Thankfully, Styles had an impact at the other end, drawing a needless tug from ex-Barnsley captain Andy Yiadom who did his best to help draw his old club level.

Assuming penalty duties with Cauley Woodrow substituted at the break, Alex Mowatt’s effort squirmed under the body of Rafael Cabral to cancel out Ovie Ejaria’s 34th-minute opener.

It came after Barnsley switched off from a long ball forward from Leeds-born Andy Rinomhota and Ejaria tucked the ball home nicely.

Barnsley, improved on the restart, held their nerve and produced a more intense in-character second half on an evening when there was also palpable tension between both benches.

Although Joao spurned a golden chance, the Reds may have nicked it, with Daryl Dike seeing a goal ruled out after he bundled in from Mowatt’s corner. But a draw was right and fair.

Through their purple patch, Barnsley have won duels aplenty and imposed their will on opposing sides and the pre-match question was if Reading would be up for the fight.

The selection of the experienced defensive duo of Michael Morrison and Yiadom in their line-up suggested they were drawing battle lines and donning combat fatigues and across the pitch, those in blue and white showed an appetite to perform the ugly side of the game and scrap for the cause.

Following a similar template to Derby and Sheffield Wednesday, the visitors refused to be intimidated and despite a decent enough start, Barnsley tailed off.

Ismael plumped for Dominik Frieser and Victor Adeboyejo - making his first start since February 17 - up top with Woodrow, but as the half wore on, it was hard not to think that the power of Daryl Dike and Carlton Morris would be called for and their arrival would be forthcoming, quite possibly at the interval.

Reading defended stoutly, with the hosts best moments going to defenders, with Callum Brittain grazing the crossbar with a cross-shot and seeing a venomous goalbound drive blocked by Liam Moore.

New Polish international Michal Helik headed straight at Rafael Cabral when he might have done better, but it was the Royals who had the better moments.

Barnsley survived an early let-off when Yakou Meite profited on a Mads Andersen header, only to balloon the ball over on a slightly bobbly surface, while Joao shot over on the turn.

It was a game where the first goal always carried the potential to be significant, unfortunately it was Barnsley who blinked when Ejaria ghosted in between Brittain and Helik to surge clear and tuck the ball tidily past Collins.

Ismael did not procrastinate at the break and DIke and Morris were indeed called for and it pepped the hosts up, as did the introduction of Aapo Halme.

Joao almost picked out Meite early in the second half, but Barnsley persevered and had their reward following Yiadom’s indiscretion.

Joao then took centre stage before Cabral saw a free-kick slip from his grasp under pressure from Andersen, with the ball hitting the post.

Carlton Morris also went close as play became frenetic. But this was a good point in the circumstances for Barnsley.

Barnsley: Collins; Sollbauer, Helik, Andersen; Brittain, Palmer (Halme 57), Mowatt, Styles; Frieser, Woodrow (Dike 45), Adeboyejo (Morris 45). Substitutes unused: Walton, J Williams, Chaplin, Sibbick, Oduor, Moon.

Reading: Cabral; Yiadom, Morrison (Holmes 42), Moore, Gibson, Rinomhota, Laurent; Meite, Olise (Semedo 84), Ejaria; Joao. Substitutes unused: Southwood, Esteves, Richards, Baldock, Aluko, Tetek, Puskas.

Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).