Barnsley FC 0 Ipswich 3: Reds' fine home run and top-two hopes end - but a night for perspective

THIS was the night when the immovable object met the unstoppable force.

Ahead of kick-off, Barnsley had recorded nine successive home wins in the same season for the first time since 1914-15 and their trophy count included Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Derby.

Ipswich, on the other hand, were unbeaten in 16 matches, scoring goals and keeping clean sheets for fun and hurtling towards the Championship with the velocity of an express train.

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Victories and shut-outs at Derby, Bolton and Peterborough represented statements along the way.

Mads Andersen. Picture: Getty.Mads Andersen. Picture: Getty.
Mads Andersen. Picture: Getty.

Surely, something had to give between these two at an energised and expectant Oakwell?. It did, but not in the way that the hosts or their neighbours from just down the A61 would have wished.

An Ipswich line-up with few deficiencies completed their own particular set and are destined to end their penance in League One.

Barnsley are play-off bound and so are Wednesday by the looks of it on a night when there were no cheers in unison in Wombwell and Wadsley Bridge and Hoyland and Hillsborough.

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Barnsley's top-two pitch is now officially over, but on this particular night, there needs to be perspective. Last summer, few if anyone would have expected them to be in with a sniff of automatic promotion in late April.

Beforehand, the ever-shrewd Michael Duff warned that Ipswich would be the toughest test yet in their run of home games against the division's big-hitters and so it emphatically proved.

Barnsley were in the game in the first half but two poor concessions just before the interval killed it as a contest against an Ipswich side who can clearly play, but also have a hard edge.

It proved a rare off-night for captain Mads Andersen, who was culpable for the hosts’ second goal - scored by ex-Wednesday forward George Hirst shortly after Nathan Broadhead headed in a soft opener.

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Broadhead passed up a penalty after another Andersen indiscretion on the resumption with it left to ex-Reds forward Conor Chaplin to take the plaudits by lobbing home a neat third goal late on, his 27th of a golden season.

Ahead of the game, Duff labelled it as his hardest team selection since taking over, although the absence of Luca Connell was an enforced change he could have done without.

Jon Russell was handed his first home start and just his third since signing. Thrown into such a big game, he looked understandably rusty.

A key call also saw Duff opt for the hustle and experience of ex-Ipswich player James Norwood in preference to Slobodan Tedic.

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Ipswich, backed by a cacophonous and sizable support of 5,000 visiting fans, had enjoyed plenty of their own way on their travels of late. The onus was on Barnsley to not let their visitors take over. They managed that for 43 minutes. But halves of football last a bit longer.

While the hosts did not create any clear-cut opportunities, their industry could not be faulted and their organisation was pretty sound until they fatally switched off twice in the lead-up to the break and it proved enough.

An opener which would have annoyed Duff intensely saw Broadhead nod in at the near post following an inswinging corner from former Leeds United player Leif Davis.

That was compounded moments later on the counter when Hirst held off Andersen following a punt forward from Davis before firing home in confident fashion past Isted, with Duff’s displeasure clear to see in the technical area.

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Without knocking on the door repeatedly, Ipswich had the moments of danger with Massimo Luongo hitting the bar with a fine curler and Hirst firing wide after Barnsley were opened up.

Needing to win to maintain their admittedly slim top-two hopes and with their play-off place banked - with a second-leg semi-final at home - it was a free hit for the Reds, but they needed to land a few more punches on the restart.

A very proficient side with confidence clearly coursing through their veins, Ipswich had the game firmly in the palm of their hand.

Barnsley needed something to buy into against an Ipswich side as strong at defending as they are going in the other direction .

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The transfusion of hope that Barnsley sought then arrived, but not in the way they envisaged.

Andersen’s tough night continued when he was penalised for catching Wes Burns in the box.

Fortunately for the home captain’s sake and Barnsley’s, Isted further endeared himself to Reds supporters by guessing right to deny Broadhead.

It proved no stimulus for Barnsley. Tedic and Cole put chances over, but the hosts got little change out of Ipswich's backline. Chaplin had more joy.

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Barnsley: Isted; B Thomas, Andersen, Kitching; J Williams (Cotter 82), Phillips (L Thomas 69), Russell (Benson 58), Kane, Cadden; Cole (Watters 82), Norwood (Tedic 58). Substitutes unused: Collins, Larkeche.

Ipswich Town: Walton; Clarke, Woolfenden, Burgess, Davis (Leigh 76); Luongo (Ball 85), Morsy; Broadhead (Harness 84), Chaplin, Burns (Jackson 84); Hirst (Ladapo 84). Substitutes unused: Hladky, Edwards.

Referee: B Toner (Blackburn).

Attendance: 17,018 (4,855 Ipswich supporters).