Barnsley 2 Blackburn Rovers 1 - Change of fortune for Tykes at Oakwell
Nothing indicates their rapid development since better than the fact they have now hit that milestone before 30 league matches of the current campaign, coincidentally with another Roses win over Rovers.
Like last summer, in another correlation, they achieved that courtesy of a vibrant second half.
But this did not tell the entire story.
Managers are paid for spotting the signs and on a night when the game was going nowhere in rain-hit conditions, Valerien Ismael made five positive changes after clearly deciding that the action he was watching was not to his liking and took full advantage of the five-substitution rule.
It reaped a harvest as Barnsley secured their first home win in the league since Boxing Day.
The win pushed the Reds two points closer to the magic 50-point mark. Get there in double-quick time and Ismael’s side may just have some fun. But first things first.
It has certainly been a grand week for Carlton Morris, one of Ismael’s successful replacements and after making the breakthrough with his second goal for the club in four days, the workaholic forward played a part in the late clincher for Alex Mowatt, who tucked the ball home in the consummate manner of a captain.
There was still time for ex-Reds loanee Adam Armstrong to cause a few tremors in home ranks after lobbing home in the fourth minute of stoppage time. But Rovers’ response was too late, a bit like Tony Mowbray’s substitutions.
Barnsley had the better first-half chances, but the only time that Rovers were truly caught out was from a quick-taken free-kick from Conor Chaplin which sent the recalled Victor Adeboyejo clear on the left, with his rising effort from a tight angle tipped over by Thomas Kaminski.
Chaplin, who buzzed around with intent, also tested Kaminski early on with a well-executed volley, while Cauley Woodrow headed over when he perhaps should have done better.
Romal Palmer was also not far away with a volley, but this was far from the dominance that Barnsley exerted at Brentford or in the gegenpressing masterclass against Chelsea six days earlier.
There was also not too much to enthuse about in possession either as they failed to stretch Rovers’ backline, well marshalled by captain Darragh Lenihan.
Further forward, Sam Gallagher’s pace was a weapon allied to goal-grabbing nous of Bradley Dack, who headed one decent chance over while Lenihan headed another tamely at Brad Collins.
As the away side, the visitors were entitled to be happy enough at the interval, mindful that one moment may be just enough in testing conditions in the second period.
Blackburn showed signs of settling on the early evidence of the second half and Ismael had clearly seen enough – and by the midway point of the half, he had emptied his substitute’s bench.
Barnsley still struggled for cohesion, but posted danger from the set-piece route to give them heart. Kaminski blocked Mads Andersen’s point-blank header from Mowatt’s free-kick and fellow defender Michal Helik was not far away with another header which sailed off target as Barnsley started to be more proactive and reclaim the initiative in a key juncture of the game.
The upturn in the hosts’ urgency was then royally rewarded by Morris’s moment to savour with a pinpoint low drive.
Clearly with the taste for it, Morris soon tested Kaminski again with a similar strike, with Mowbray’s own efforts to instigate a response from his side by way of a triple change arriving too late in the day as Barnsley were first to most things.
Morris went close to a second before assisting in Mowatt to make the game safe, with the insurance of that goal magnified when Armstrong converted after a punt forward from Harvey Elliott, whose entrance to the stage was somewhat belated.
Barnsley: Collins; Sibbick, Helik, Andersen, Brittain, Palmer (Kane 64), Mowatt, Styles (J Williams 45); Chaplin (Frieser 55), Woodrow (Dike 55), Adeboyejo (Morris 55). Substitutes unused: Walton, Kane, Oduor, Sollbauer, Moon.
Blackburn Rovers: Kaminski; Harwood-Bellis, Lenihan, Branthwaite; Bennett (Dolan 76), Travis (Rothwell 84), Downing (Evans 76), Douglas; Dack (Elliott 76); Gallagher, Armstrong (Brereton 87). Substitutes unused: Pears, Bell, Davenport, Buckley.
Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester).
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