WHEN Andreas Weimann headed Bristol City into a 2-0 lead 71 minutes into last night’s Championship game at Oakwell, it looked like Barnsley’s goose was cooked.
Judging by the chorus of “Sack the board” from the terraces, it suggested the fans thought the game was up but fortunately for them, their players did not.
Inspired by Aapo Halme, they dragged their way back into the game and when Cauley Woodrow found the net from almost the last kick of the game, the scoreline finally took on a look more befitting of the home team’s performance.
If only they did not make it so hard for themselves.
The Reds have left themselves without a permanent manager and asset-stripped their squad in the summer without signing suitable replacements. Their inexperience leaves them prone to the lapses in concentration which undeservedly put them 2-0 down, but gives them the fighting spirit which clawed it back.
Having politely let their visitors Bristol City start on the front foot, Barnsley grew into the first half and had the better of it only to be hit by sucker punch one of their former players was at the heart of.
Once the game belatedly got going the Reds had the better of it, forcing Daniel Bentley into two good saves. Mallik Wilks was a handful for the Bristol City defence, who looked vulnerable when Barnsley sprung counter-attacks.
Lee Johnson’s side passed the ball around pleasantly, with Weimann and Pedro Pereira at the heart of some good moves.
There was little for Bradley Collins to do, though, and although Callum O’Dowda forced him into a 12th-minute save, his shot lacked the power or direction to seriously trouble the goalkeeper.
It was the 20th minute before the Reds really showed what they were about, Conor Chaplin linking brilliantly with Woodrow but unable to round it off when the final ball in from the left was cut out by Taylor Moore. The hosts took confidence from it and although Weiman and Pereira linked a couple more times shortly afterwards, it was the precursor to Adam Murray’s side taking control.
Midway through the first half former Doncaster Rovers and Leeds United forward Wilks forced Bentley into his first notable save, tipping a curling shot around the post, then headed a Dimitri Cavare cross wide. Alex Mowatt thumped a shot just wide from the striker’s lay-off.
After 34 minutes Bentley was called upon again, this time touching Chaplin’s effort from a Jacob Brown cross onto the upright. The chance was made easier because Ashley Williams slipped in the now heavy rain.
At that stage it seemed Barnsley would take the lead but much as they wanted to blame Marley Watkins, one of two former players in the Robins’ XI, their own indiscipline was a bigger factor.
Watkins hammed it up when Bambo Diaby grabbed at him near the touchline after 43 minutes and while a yellow card may have been harsh, a free-kick did not seem to be, despite the disgust from the terraces. From substitute Niclas Eliasson’s delivery, Barnsley lost Williams and were punished when he headed in.
The boos ringing in his ears only seemed to encourage Watkins to put himself about more. Barnsley lost their heads, as shown by Cavare getting all giddy when a neat touch took him away from his man. He let fly from a ridiculous distance – somewhere in the region of 40 yards – and was wildly off target.
The scrappiness the second half descended into was of no use to the hosts, and less than a quarter of an hour into the second half, Wilks was withdrawn having failed to get into it.
Penalty appeals for an alleged Tomas Kalas foul on Woodrow after an hour came only from the exasperated stands. Even the Bristol City bench got involved, Australian referee Jarred Gillett flashing a yellow card their way when one of the coaching staff stopped a quick Barnsley restart.
The Robins got to the right byline a couple of times on the counter-attack and when Weimann won a corner from the second incursion, he pulled away unmarked at it, and steered a header inside the far post.
As supporters raged against the club’s directors, Halme bulleted in a header from a corner seven minutes later, then trying his luck with a long-range – but not Cavare-range effort – which was blocked.
Woodrow stabbed a shot goalwards just as the 90 minutes were coming to a close but could not beat Bentley.
He lay on the turf afterwards in frustration.
Diaby, on the stretch, headed a left-wing cross wide in the second added minute. It seemed like that was going to be the theme of the night but Woodrow refused to accept defeat, tapping in after a move down the left which was remarkably composed in such desperate circumstances.
With Stoke City – now also managerless – next at Oakwell, the Reds look up for the fight. If only they did not insist on making life so hard for themselves.
Barnsley: Collins; Diaby, Halme, Sibbick; Cavare, Dougall, Mowatt, Brown (Oduor 81); Chaplin (Schmidt 72); Wilks (Thomas 59), Woodrow. Unused substitutes: Radlinger, Andersen, McGeehan, Simoes.
Bristol City: Bentley; Kalas, Williams, Moore (Baker 72); Pereira, Brownhill (Eliasson 30), Massengo, Rowe, O’Dowda; Weimann, Watkins (Semenyo 72). Unused substitutes: Maenpaa, Wright, Rodri, Palmer.
Referee: J Gillet (Australia).