Barnsley 3 Crystal Palace 1: Tykes ease drop fears after storming Palace's defences

BARNSLEY supporters will hope they have waved farewell to the Championship relegation zone for another season after this crucial home win over Crystal Palace.

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The Tykes had slipped into the bottom three for the first time in four months when losing to Blackpool at the weekend, but bounced back in true style last night.

Simon Davey's side needed to show real character, too, after falling behind with just seven minutes gone.

Strikes from Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Lee Hills, an own goal, and Michael Mifsud secured the win that lifts the club two points clear of the bottom three.

With two games in hand on most of the other clubs in and around the relegation zone, Barnsley now have every chance of beating the drop.

Davey had stressed the importance of taking a healthy points return from a sequence of three home games out of four.

Three points from the first two games is not a bad start but the next two, against Derby County on Saturday and Nottingham Forest on April 4 are still potentially 'six pointers.'

Barnsley were boosted last night by the return of Brazilian midfielder Anderson, after compassionate leave, and captain Stephen Foster after a two-match ban. Striker Jon Macken was also back in the side as Davey dropped Mounir El Haimour, Daniel Bogdanovic, and Dennis Souza.

Palace manager Neil Warnock fielded the same side that recorded a 3-1 victory away at Swansea City three days earlier.

After winning just two of their previous 11 games, Barnsley looked far from relaxed in the opening stages and were guilty of surrendering possession too easily.

There were just eight minutes gone when Palace took the lead through former Sheffield Wednesday striker Shefki Kuqi.

Foster stumbled on the ball just a few yards outside the area and a challenge by Victor Moses sent it rolling into the path of Kuqi, who scored with some venom.

Goalkeeper Heinz Muller dived low to his right to flick away Kuqi's header as Palace threatened to score again as they looked full of confidence and were also playing without the pressure of having to fight for their lives.

So it was with some relief around Oakwell when Barnsley drew level on 23 minutes – Campbell-Ryce showing the qualities that have attracted bids in excess of 1m this season.

The Jamaican international ran onto a neat turn and pass by Macken in the middle of the park and sprinted clear of the Palace defence before coolly sliding the ball past Julian Speroni.

When Darren Moore needed lengthy treatment following a tackle on Kuqi, it looked as though Barnsley might be about to lose one of the pillars of the back four. The veteran defender insisted on playing through the pain, however, and his never-say-die spirit served to lift both team-mates and supporters.

Twice within a minute, Barnsley created opportunities that they really needed to take. Anderson rose at a corner but headed straight at Speroni and then Mifsud got the ball tangled between his legs after a gem of a pass from Hugo Colace.

Barnsley missed further opportunities either side of the break; Anderson headed the ball at Speroni again in a carbon copy repeat of the earlier corner and Mifsud skied a shot horribly from 20 yards.

The missed chances did nothing to stem Barnsley's enthusiasm, however, and seven minutes into the second period, they scored the crucial second goal.

Rob Kozluk, who spent over seven years serving under Palace manager Warnock at Sheffield United, was the creator – surging past two defenders into the box before hitting a low ball across the area that was turned beyond his own goalkeeper by teenager Hills.

Moore suffered another heavy knock just after the hour mark when colliding with goalkeeper Muller. Once again, he showed gladiatorial mettle and was soon back in the action denying Palace a possible equaliser when Muller spilled the ball at the feet of Victor Moses.

Barnsley survived another scare – a close-range header from Kuqi striking Bobby Hassell on the head and bouncing over the bar – before Mifsud scored the third and settled any nerves.

After a string of near and not-so-near misses, the Maltese international looked delighted to have finally found the net.

The ball fell into his path 40 yards out after Macken and substitute John Ertl clashed in the air. Mifsud advanced to the edge of the box before finding the bottom corner of the net.

Palace's season may now be over, they are safe from the drop and unlikely to make the play-offs; Barnsley's next few games, in stark contrast, are still pivotal to their future.

Barnsley: Muller; Hassell, Foster, Moore, Kozluk; Hammill (Devaney 79), Anderson, Colace, Campbell-Ryce; Macken (Bogdanovic 75), Mifsud (El Haimour 89). Unused substitutes: Steele, Van Homoet.

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Clyne, Fonte (Ertl 45), Hill, Hills; Danns (Oster 67), Derry, Carle; Moses, Kuqi, Stokes. Unused substitutes: Ifil, Fonte, Comley.

Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).