Barnsley 1 Yeovil Town 1: Mellis disappointed but insists Barnsley’s spirit remains high

BARNSLEY’S exploits last season were tagged ‘The Great Escape’ and if they are to provide a sequel to that blockbuster they will have to do it the hard way.

Marcus Tudgay
Marcus Tudgay

Saturday’s draw with fellow strugglers Yeovil Town means bottom-of-the-table Tykes have now played all four teams directly above them and have failed to win any of those games.

Draws against Yeovil (23rd), Sheffield Wednesday (22nd), Charlton (21st) and Doncaster Rovers (20th) mean that, while the season is not yet at the halfway stage, the second part of the campaign has some daunting games to come at Oakwell.

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Caretaker-manager Micky Mellon has been charged with improving results following David Flitcroft’s axing and his first task must be to look at home results.

An opening-day 4-0 loss to Wigan (currently 14th) set the tone and Barnsley have won just once against teams in the bottom half of the Championship in eight attempts.

That came with a 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough (19th), but a 5-1 loss to Watford (13th) and 3-0 reverse to Birmingham City (15th) have tested the patience of home supporters.

Saturday could have finished 5-5, such was the copious amount of chances both teams conspired to miss.

Midfielder Jacob Mellis has been handed a more central role under Mellon and the former Sheffield United and Chelsea youngster is relishing his chance after moving in from the wings.

The 22-year-old is the fulcrum of Barnsley’s attacking play, but with Chris O’Grady out injured, the Reds have few options in attack.

Yet Mellis is confident the dressing room is strong enough to repeat last season’s revival in the second half of the season.

“We are confident (of staying up),” he insisted.

“Last year everyone wrote us off and we just came together as a group, the fans got behind us, and we survived. Hopefully we can do that again this year.

“Micky has given me great confidence to get on the ball. If I give it away, which I did with a few sloppy passes (on Saturday), he has given me the confidence to get back on the ball and keep going.

“It’s a busy time over Christmas, and from now until the second half of the season we can kick on and pick up more points, starting with a good match against Leeds next week.”

An error from on-loan goalkeeper Jack Butland allowed the nippy Joe Grant to open the scoring and Yeovil should have doubled their lead, but Joe Edwards’s effort hit the inside of a post.

Former Manchester City striker Ishmael Miller also spurned a chance and Yeovil were made to pay for their misses when Marcus Tudgay tucked away a 34th-minute penalty.

Paddy McCourt – who limped off injured in the first half – and Tomasz Cywka both tested visiting goalkeeper Chris Dunn.

When Cywka – “he has John Travolta feet”, purred Mellon – tempted James McAllister into a clumsy foul, referee Lee Probert had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Tudgay converted.

Mellis’s curling effort was then heading for the top corner, only for Yeovil defender Shane Duffy to pop up behind goalkeeper Dunn and head it over.

Miller had a ‘goal’ ruled out for handball and also headed over from Grant’s cross; at the other end, substitute Jason Scotland scuffed the Yeovil crossbar and Cywka went close with a free-kick.

Mellon sent on Jean-Yves M’voto to add height to their attack with 10 minutes to go, and he nearly snatched an 87th-minute winner, but his header was well-saved by Dunn.

Former Doncaster Rovers striker James Hayter should have won the game for Yeovil, but headed over from close range as both sides had to settle for an unwanted draw.

“We started off a bit sloppy, gave the goal away, and it was always going to be hard from then onwards,” said Mellis. “Luckily we got it together and equalised and were disappointed not to win.”

Asked if it had been a must-win match against Yeovil, Mellis replied: “I don’t think so. If you look at the table we are not cut adrift. Obviously it would have been nice to get three points against a team close to us, but it wasn’t to be. Jean-Yves came on, won the header, but it’s a great save from their ’keeper to be fair. We just need that bit of luck for it to drop in.”

Mellis said the Reds players felt responsible for Flitcroft’s departure, but he is enjoying working under former Fleetwood Town manager Mellon.

“It’s been good, bright on the training pitch,” he said. “We have all been working hard for Micky, trying to move the ball well. I think we just need a bit of patience from everyone around us; it was frustrating on Saturday.

“We take responsibility (for David Flitcroft) losing his job, he worked hard all around the place and the boys all loved him. But obviously football goes on, and we need to keep this club up.”

Away games at Brighton and Burnley had seen the Reds – three points off safety – play some flowing football, on Mellon’s instructions, but it was more an end-to-end cup tie against Yeovil.

“We tried to do pretty much everything to try and win the game.” said Mellon. “We were desperate to try and get a victory. We were nowhere near the type of game we’ve been used to in the last two.

“We’ve got the ball down and passed it before, (Saturday) we didn’t do that. It wasn’t that type of game – it was a battle. But we hung in there and had a go at them.

“We had a 10-minute spell at Burnley where we didn’t battle, but we did that (against Yeovil). Their ’keeper’s made a few good saves but so has ours. I can’t fault the lads’ efforts, they’ve had a right good go. I’m disappointed with their goal. You want teams to work a lot harder than that to score against you. We shot ourselves in the foot, there’s not doubt about that. But what I’m pleased about is that we never went under. We kept going.”