PATRICK SCHMIDT is clearly not a man to beat around the bush.
“When you’re 1-0 down after five minutes, it’s just sh*t,” said Barnsley’s Austrian forward, speaking to the press after Saturday’s match.
Well, yes, you could say that, Patrick, me old china, and it got no better for poor old Barnsley.
Not even the consolation of Schmidt’s first goal for the club – two minutes after coming on as a late substitute – could mask the fact that this, for the hosts, was a day that rhymed with Schmidt’s surname.
It was a day that began, to be strictly accurate about it, with a goal in the eighth minute as opposed to within the first five – not that anyone of Barnsley persuasion will particularly care.
That was when Sam Clucas, the Stoke midfielder, scored the sort of goal that would have graced a meeting between the top two teams, let alone the bottom two, one which set the tone for Michael O’Neill’s first match as Stoke manager.
It happened like this…
Brad Collins, the Barnsley goalkeeper, took a free-kick about five yards in from the right touchline, roughly between the penalty area and halfway line.
He played it low, loose and straight to former Hull City player Clucas who, with a controlling touch that took the ball from a foot inside his own half to a couple of feet inside Barnsley’s, then put his left leg through the ball in one flowing movement, chipping with pinpoint accuracy as Collins chased back in vain like a man trying to apprehend a cap that had blown off in the wind.
“It gets in the head,” said Schmidt of the effect on Barnsley caused by the goal. In truth, it was a brain fade from which they never recovered.
For the rest of the first half on a cold and cloudy afternoon, the sort that leaves you bemoaning the fact that you only came sporting several layers, Barnsley carried all the attacking threat of an old age pensioner brandishing a twig.
There was a shot on target of sorts from Cauley Woodrow, comfortably saved by Jack Butland, but little else, the visitors having doubled their lead on the half-hour when Lee Gregory rolled home a penalty after Alex Mowatt tripped James McClean.
Within two minutes of the restart, Barnsley pulled one back, Cameron McGeehan stabbing past Butland’s left-hand into the top corner from just outside the six-yard area.
It was a composed finish from a player who returned at the expense of Mallik Wilks, who dropped to the bench in the only change from the side that drew 2-2 at home to Bristol City in the previous match.
On that occasion, the Reds recovered from 2-0 down, and they might have done so again had referee Jeremy Simpson not waved away a strong penalty appeal in the 57th minute when lively substitute Luke Thomas appeared to be brought down by Stephen Ward as he cut inside.
As it was, Stoke scored twice in the next 10 minutes to go 4-1 ahead, Joe Allen swivelling just outside the six-yard area to fire home right-footed after a corner and Clucas thundering in a drive from just outside the ‘D’ that scorched past Collins’s left hand.
By now, the 2,600 or so Stoke fans were singing with the intensity of drunken town criers, not to mention chanting Michael O’Neill’s name with a fervour bordering on religious zeal.
So wrapped up in his work was O’Neill, suited and booted in the technical area, that the banal entreaty “Michael, Michael give us a wave” was rather wonderfully if perhaps not wilfully ignored, not that it would have been held against him.
No-one, on this day of South Yorkshire doom and gloom, would have been shouting “Adam, Adam give us a wave”, but there was succour of sorts for Murray when Schmidt latched on to Mowatt’s through ball to beat Butland in the closing moments.
“It would have been much better if I hadn’t scored and we’d got the three points,” pondered the Austrian, parroting from the well-worn book of football cliches.
Schmidt now returns home for Austria Under-21s’ Euro qualifier against Kosovo on Friday, while Barnsley do not play again until Saturday week due to the international break, by which time Murray hopes that the managerial situation will be sorted.
“We need a little bit of clarity now,” he said.
“I think the players need that clarity when they return (from the international break) and then we can set some targets for the rest of the season.
“It’s up to the board to decide (on the new manager/head coach).”
Barnsley have done some good things under Murray’s caretakership, but this was a hammer-blow for him and his free-falling side.
Barnsley: Collins, Dougall, Diaby, Brown, McGeehan (Wilks 75), Woodrow, Chaplin (Schmidt 82), Cavare, Sibbick (Thomas 45), Halme, Mowatt. Unused substitutes: Radlinger, Andersen, Oduor, Simoes.
Stoke City: Butland, Edwards, Ward, Allen, Batth, Ince (Diouf 82), McClean, Martins Indi, Gregory (Vokes 90), Clucas (Ndiaye 73), Woods. Unused substitutes: Federici, Carter-Vickers, Powell, Campbell.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancs).