If there is an attribute Barnsley could bottle and preserve from a run of form that has transformed them from relegation certainties to genuine survival contenders under Gerhard Struber, it would be attitude.
“We are a young team that never gives up. And for every game we need that attitude, where we are playing on the limit.Gerhard Struber
The positive mental application that helped them snatch a late winner at Millwall last Saturday was in evidence again on Boxing Day as they took a point against leaders West Brom with another late goal.
With 22 places separating the two teams at the start of play, this would be the sternest of examinations for Struber in terms of the gulf in quality, with the Baggies a team of Premier League calibre and Barnsley full of players who helped elevate them from League One.
That is until attitude of the never-say-die variety comes into play. And this was not just a ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at it type of draw, Barnsley were full value for the point, something the magnanimous Slavan Bilic acknowledged afterwards.
“We are disappointed when you consider the timing of the goal,” he said of Aapo Halme’s close-range equaliser, “but they deserved it.
“They created good chances every time. They’re a team I like because of the effort they put in.”
Halme’s goal was plundered from three yards out, the Finland Under-21s international steering home Connor Chaplin’s cross-shot to the delight of the Oakwell faithful who have now seen their team claim 11 points from Struber’s eight games in charge.
“I am very proud of my team,” said Struber. “We were the better team, we created more chances and had the right mentality, the right character and the right match plan.
“I am proud of the performance and of the attitude. We believed in our strength and our gameplan.
“We had the right passion to change the result.”
It could have been so very different. Games against teams plotting a relentless course to the Premier League are hard enough without gifting away goals, but that is exactly what Barnsley did on five minutes.
There appeared no danger when Mads Andersen passed the ball back to Sami Radlinger but the goalkeeper’s meek clearance was returned straight back over his head from 25 yards by West Brom’s Filip Krovinovic.
That Barnsley, and Radlinger, didn’t hang their heads after that, or West Brom didn’t go for the jugular, owed much to the Reds’ attitude and their belief in the game plan.
That was to press and take the game to West Brom. If Radlinger looked shaky, his opposite number Sam Johnstone was nearly unstoppable, defying Chaplin after a smart move down the right, Jacob Brown and Cauley Woodrow in a first half Barnsley dominated.
Johnstone saved well again from Luke Thomas before he was finally beaten and Barnsley’s patience was rewarded when Halme struck in the 90th minute.
“Barnsley are not looking like a relegation team with that performance,” said Struber.
“There remains a lot of hard work to be done, but we have the right character and the right spirit.
“In the next transfer window we need more experience, I don’t think that will come as a surprise.
“We are a young team that never gives up. And for every game we need that attitude, where we are playing on the limit.
“If we are not on the limit, we lose. When we create that level of performance, though, I am very confident.”
Barnsley: Radlinger; Williams, Diaby, Andersen, Odour; Halme, Brown (Schmidt 71), Thomas, Mowatt (Bahre 90); Woodrow, Chaplin. Unused substitutes: Collins, Williams, Dougall, Bahre, Schmidt, Sibbick, Simoes.
West Brom: Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Hegazi, Gibbs (Townsend 89); Pereira, Sawyers, Livermore, Krovinovic (Barry 75); Robson-Kanu, Austin (Zohore 64). Unused substitutes: Bond, Phillips,Edwards, O’Shea.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).