Barnsley FC 3 Shrewsbury Town 0: Milestone night for Reds and Devante Cole as hosts start to do something about their homesickness

BARNSLEY’S home form has been peculiar to say the least for much of 2023.

On the last occasion that they welcomed Shrewsbury Town on Easter Monday, they recorded an eighth successive league victory at Oakwell, something that they previously achieved in April 1955 when Anthony Eden was Prime Minister.

After the feast, cometh the famine. In six League One matches on home soil so far in 2023-24 - prior to the Shropshire side’s latest appointment in this part of South Yorkshire - the Reds had won just twice, losing the other four.

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Ahead of back-to-back league games at home, Barnsley were assigned with playing catch up.

Oakwell, home of Barnsley FC. Picture: PAOakwell, home of Barnsley FC. Picture: PA
Oakwell, home of Barnsley FC. Picture: PA

Fixtures against the Shrews and Fleetwood Town, with due respect to both, presented an opportunity for Neill Collins to start amending matters.

Although Tuesday night’s visitors had proved awkward to negotiate in the past.

Barnsley edged a niggly encounter in April - when both sides ended with ten men - and the reverse fixture in border country was also tight and fiery last season.

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This one was far more comprehensive in comparison. Asked a few questions regarding their home numbers, the Reds did something about it here.

There was some polish in the first half and it was more perfunctory on the restart.

But there was still a touch of class from Devante Cole, a player who increasingly looks like having the measure of League One.

He set up Callum Styles’ third goal of the season to make it 2-0 in super fashion. He then sealed the game with Barnsley’s third in the 75th minute to move into double figures for the season. It was top-class.

He is a player who the Reds would struggle to do without.

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To start things off - the rarest of beasts as Barnsley were awarded a home penalty in the league for the first time in 591 days - or 34 games if you prefer since Carlton Morris netted against Fulham in March 2022.

The game started pretty quietly in truth, but it was hiding its light under a bushel. After 23 minutes, the hosts suddenly found themselves 2-0 up in double-quick time following an eventful short cameo of action.

A collector’s item sent Barnsley on their way, but Herbie Kane was not about to look a gifthorse in the mouth, sending Shrews keeper the wrong way from the spot after Carl Winchester was penalised after Barry Cotter’s ferocious shot caught his arm. It was his second goal in successive games.

At the other end, salt was soon added to Shrews’ wounds, with the visitors furious after referee Simon Mather failed to point to the spot following a tussle between Mael de Devigney and Malvind Benning, with the Reds defender appearing to grab hold of his opponents’ shirt.

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Moments later, Barnsley added a second to add to the Shrews’ chagrin.

Former Sheffield Wednesday defender Chey Dunkley, on thin ice from an early juncture when he caught Cole with a lunging challenge to incur a booking, was flummoxed by the Reds striker who got away down the right before picking out Styles, who slotted the ball low past Marosi.

Visiting manager Matt Taylor soon received a caution of his own after complaining about the non-award involving Benning. After some extremely hard calls over the past season or so for their own side, no Barnsley fan was complaining whatsoever. They had earned a bit of fortune.

Barnsley’s quality footballers in midfield then started to take over, while ex-Shrews player John McAtee posed a problem with his ability to drop deep and his directness, alongside the excellent Cole, who looks to have the measure of League One.

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Shrewsbury did get in some dangerous positions at times, but in the main, Ben Killip - on his home league debut in place of the injured Liam Roberts - was protected well.

The only downer at the interval saw the departure of Styles with a foot injury by the looks, but Barnsley’s strength in depth in terms of midfield options did not make it a significant problem, as Adam Phillips slotted in at the start of the second period.

Boasting a decent lead, Barnsley could be patient and wait for their opportunities, while concentrating on game management as opposed to chasing the game.

Creditably, the visitors applied an element of pressure on the restart, with Daniel Udoh just over.

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At the other end, Cole then twisted and turned past ex-Reds defender Jason Sraha before unleashing a scorcher which flew just off target.

Shrews were quite not finished, that said, with Dunkley denied a goal with Cadden clearing his header off the line after Barnsley failed to clear.

A triple change that provided the hosts with an energy rush, with both wing-backs among those to be replaced.

Two were involved in Barnsley’s third to finish proceedings in the shape of Max Watters and Owen Dodgson.

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The one who merited the most bouquets, who started and finished a slick move in sumptuous fashion, was Cole.

Barnsley: Killip; Williams, de Gevigney, McCart; Russell; Cotter (O’Keefe 64), Kane, Styles (Phillips 45), Cadden (Dodgson 64); McAtee (Watters 64), Cole (Benson 78). Unused substitutes: Flavell, Shepherd.

Shrewsbury Town: Marosi; Sraha (Pierre 84), Dunkley, Flanagan; Winchester, Kenneh (Sobowale 45), Perry (Bennett 81), Benning (Anderson 81); Bayliss; Udoh, Mata (Bowman 63). Unused substitutes: Burgoyne, Watts.

Referee: S Mather (Lancashire).

Attendance: 10,859 (220 Shrewsbury supporters).

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