Stoke City 2 Barnsley 2 - Errors prove costly for Tykes

Stoke City's Tommy Smith (right) scores his side's equaliser against Barnsley. Picture: PAStoke City's Tommy Smith (right) scores his side's equaliser against Barnsley. Picture: PA
Stoke City's Tommy Smith (right) scores his side's equaliser against Barnsley. Picture: PA
A BAROMETER of a side’s credentials is supposedly whether they ‘can do it on a cold night in Stoke’ to coin a phrase first used by football pundit Andy Gray.

Unfortunately when it comes to three points, Barnsley have not done it at any venue at league level since that balmy and unforgettable midweek evening in Brentford on July 22. Let alone Stoke.

It was in the Potteries where the Reds were outfought and out-thought on a sobering occasion towards the end of last season as the rampant hosts eased to a 4-0 win.

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Here, no-one could accuse Barnsley of those failures on a night when they had far more zest for the fight. But ultimately there was a bittersweet feeling at the final whistle.

A point away from home is never a bad one. But in the circumstances, Barnsley passed a glorious chance to pick up that cherished first league win of 2020-21 and get off and running for the season.

Playing against 10 men for the last half-hour after home defender Nathan Collins was dismissed following an off-the-ball elbow on Dominik Frieser, the game was there for the visitors.

But in the event, it was Stoke –who levelled twice after benevolence from Barnsley at the back – who could easily have won it at the death.

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Former Reds forward Jacob Brown, on from the bench, thought he had his moment late on, only for Michal Helik to get a key block. Brown had his head in his hands. It was not to be, mercifully.

There was also a sharp intake of breath when Harry Souttar headed wide soon after with the absence of Michael Sollbauer catching up with the Reds in the second half.

The good arrived by way of a fine first-half in particular, which saw Elliot Simoes and Frieser, with his first goal for the club, put Barnsley ahead twice.

The bad came with errors from Helik and Jack Walton to gift-wrap goals either side of half-time in keeping with some defensive ineptitude in the last fixture here.

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Beforehand, caretaker head coach Adam Murray alluded to the way in which Stoke expertly mixed up their play against the Reds in July and the name of Tyrese Campbell – who tormented the visitors in particular – on the teamsheet will have been an unwelcome rewind.

Campbell lined up alongside a seasoned forward operator in Steven Fletcher, part of a very experienced Stoke spine – with the likes of Brown, Sam Vokes, Lee Gregory and Tom Ince providing heavy-duty back-up on an imposing bench.

For a Barnsley rearguard without the services of Sollbauer, who missed his first league game since arrival in January as a precaution after being stretchered off on Saturday, it looked something akin to an acid test and huge test of concentration.

In the event, it was Stoke who were refreshingly handed the questions, with Murray’s conviction that Barnsley could exploit deficient areas in the home line-up if his players got in the right positions reaping a mini-harvest by way of two goals in the first period.

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The only blot in a textbook away performance in the first period arrived just before the interval when Helik’s failure to cut out Souttar’s pass allowed the hitherto quiet Campbell to surge clear and steer the ball effortlessly past Walton to equalise.

Aside from that, it was Barnsley who possessed the hunger, intensity, movement and quality in marked contrast to their first-half efforts here in the summer, which they shipped three goals.

It was they who mixed up play the better with Alex Mowatt and Romal Palmer at the heart of it as Herbie Kane and Matty James watched on from the bench.

The visitors hinted at things when Cauley Woodrow’s far-post effort was blocked by Collins following Frieser’s deep cross and got their reward on 19 minutes.

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Woodrow showed sublime skill to deceive Souttar and his cushioned pass to send Simoes clear was equally praiseworthy.

The deft finish from Simoes past ex-Reds captain Adam Davies was not too bad either.

After a poor opening half hour, somnolent Stoke did eventually wake up and a warning saw Nick Powell supply former Sheffield Wednesday striker Fletcher, but Walton made a crucial block.

Walton was helpless to prevent Campbell scoring, but the sting saw Frieser stretch out a leg to keep out Mowatt’s precision cross.

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Sadly, Barnsley came bearing gifts again on the restart, in a moment that Walton will want to quickly forget after flapping horribly at Jordan Thompson’s cross and Tommy Smith could not believe his luck to make it 2-2.

Grateful for the charity, Stoke were now looking distinctly interested but suffered a jolt following Collins’s dismissal.

Barnsley pushed forward and impressive debutant Callum Brittain went close twice, but was thwarted by Davies.

Stoke City: Davies; N Collins, Souttar, Chester, Smith, Mikel, Thompson, Tymon; Powell (Oakley-Boothe 77), Fletcher (Brown 68), Campbell (Ince 77). Substitutes unused: Gunn, Batth, Vokes, Gregory.

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Barnsley: J Williams, Helik, Andersen; Brittain (Schmidt 84), Mowatt, Palmer (Kane 49), Oduor; Simoes (Thomas 77), Frieser, Woodrow. Substitutes unused: Addai, Chaplin, Halme, James.

Referee: M Salisbury (Lancashire).

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Thank you

James Mitchinson

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