FORTRESS Oakwell remains intact after the opening day of the Reds’ Championship campaign.
Last season’s League One runners-up made a dream start when winger and £1.2m signing from Derby County Luke Thomas, one of six debutants, shrugged off Joe Bryan on the touchline, cut inside and shaped to play the ball back before drilling the ball inside Marcus Bettinelli’s left-hand post for a 13th-minute opener.
It was the only goal of the game but the three points were no more than the Reds deserved
The others making their bow under head coach Daniel Stendel were goalkeeper Sami Radlinger, central defenders Bambo Diaby and Mads Andersen, right-back Toby Sibbick and winger Mallik Wilks. It had little effect on their high-pressing, free-flowing approach as the newcomers fitted seamlessly into the system.
Stendel had been forced to re-shape his squad following the departures of goalkeeper Adam Davies and central defenders Ethan Pinnock and Liam Lindsay - a key trio as Barnsley went through the League One season unbeaten at home. On this showing, Stendel has found adequate replacements, especially after the way the defenders dealt with the dangerous Aleksandra Mitrovic.
There was also a pre-match blow, though, with news that striker Kieffer Moore, one of five Barnsley players included in the PFA League One team of the year, looks to be on his way to Wigan Athletic.
It had little effect on their high-pressing, free-flowing approach as the newcomers fitted seamlessly into the system.Robert Gledhill
Wales striker Moore – last season’s top-scorer with 19 goals – is making his way back from an injury sustained while on international duty but is now poised for a £4m move, which is expected to be completed over the weekend.
Relegated Fulham had just one debutant, winger Ivan Cavaleiro, who was later subbed, and they included former Barnsley central defender Alfie Mawson, who received warm applause as the teams were announced.
Fulham chief Scott Parker replaced Maxime Le Marchand seconds after his 32nd-minute yellow card for a foul on Cameron McGeehan, Cyrus Christie coming on at right-back and Denis Odoi moving inside. Odoi was the only visitor to threaten in the first half, heading over from a free-kick as Sheffield United’s head of recruitment, Paul Mitchell, ran the rule over the visitors.
Captain Mike Bahre, operating behind striker Cauley Woodrow, should have made it 2-0 before the break, stabbing the ball wide from six yards after being set up by Wilks. The Reds still received a fine ovation as they trooped off.
Mawson headed wide from a free-kick as Fulham attempted with little luck of playing the Reds at their own inter-passing game after the break. However, it took a sliding clearance from Andersen to deny Tom Cairney as he poked the ball past Radlinger in the 61st minute.
Wilks headed wide before Fulham introduced their trump card, Brighton loanee Anthony Knockaert - he forced the first save from Radlinger in the 73rd minute.
Thomas, who received great applause on his late substitution, went close to a second, latching onto a ball into the area and going wide before seeing his shot saved at the expense of a corner as Barnsley wrested control.
Late Fulham pressure brought the best out of Radlinger as the Reds also threw men in front of everything the visitors could throw at them.