Buoyant Barnsley make it three on the spin

SPEAKING in the week, Barnsley chief executive Ben Mansford said that if the club had their way, they would have postponed last night’s game.

Conor Hourihane, left, celebrates with Peter Ramage after the latter scored what proved to be the winning goal for Barnsley against Colchester United (Picture: Keith Turner).

With Ryan Williams and Marcello Trotta on international duty with Australia Under-23s and Italy Under-21s respectively and Paul Digby busy with the England Under-20s, the Reds were without three players in their match-day squad.

Usually that is enough for a club successfully to request a game to be rearranged.

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But with Williams and Trotta being emergency-loan signings, the Reds were denied the right under Football Association rules and how the Oakwell faithful will be grateful for that this morning after seeing their side claim their third successive win for the first time since February 2013.

Although it was a bit too nervy on the night, all was well that ended well as far as the home crowd were concerned.

To paraphrase an old saying, remember, remember the month of November.

It is already proving one to savour for the Reds, who have claimed the sweetest of derby wins at Bramall Lane against neighbours Sheffield United, bludgeoned Burton Albion in the FA Cup and now picked up three points to continue their upward trajectory in League One.

In a season which was always going to be of the slow-burn variety at its outset, given the massive overhaul of playing personnel at Oakwell, the Reds are showing signs of sparking into life.

Strikes from familiar sources in Sam Winnall, who has now plundered eight in his last eight matches and six in four outings and Conor Hourihane, now into double figures for the season after converting a penalty, were not overly surprising.

Sadly, neither was the hosts’ charitable status at the back, with the Reds’ defence – who have leaked more home goals than any other side in League One – shipping another two.

But in the final analysis, a 70th-minute header from Peter Ramage proved pivotal and despite Freddie Sears’s 12th goal of the campaign five minutes later, which set up an anxious finale, the Reds held out. Just.

With confidence oozing through every pore, it took precisely four minutes for Winnall to provide a further example of his predatory prowess, executing a first-time strike he probably would not have attempted during his barren spell in early season.

The ball found its way to him on the right and he showed no hesitation in taking aim from a narrow angle, drilling home a low strike past Sam Walker with unerring precision.

After a vibrant start, it looked as if the stage had been set for the Reds – fresh from recording a 5-0 win at home for the first time since 1980 – to fill their boots.

A cross-shot from Devante Cole, turned away by Walker, further emboldened confidence, only for the Reds’ meek defending to enable the visitors to restore parity on 15 minutes.

A cross on the right from Elliott Hewitt was not cleared and it was left to ex-Leeds United winger Sanchez Watt to fire home a deflected low shot, adding to the litany of sloppy concessions from the hosts.

From then on, it was the U’s who started to assert themselves, although they were indebted to an offside flag when Ramage headed home a free-kick from close-range before the increasingly lively Sears saw a stinging shot turned away by home goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.

Seven minutes before the break, the chance the hosts had patiently been trying to manufacture arrived, at the feet of the player they would have wished it to in Winnall, but he fired over after enterprising work from Martin Cranie.

A spot of controversy soon 
arrived with strong appeals for a penalty falling on deaf ears after Winnall went down under pressure from the backtracking Sears, who ended the half by firing over, thereby failing to cash in on an error from Hourihane.

The hosts’ controlled, probing approach was laudable in the first half and it was neat play which unhinged the visitors on 56 minutes with referee Richard Clark, after choosing not to point to the spot in the first period, this time awarding a penalty after Sean Clohessy bundled over Cole.

Hourihane coolly sent Walker the wrong way from the spot but, as with the first half, Barnsley once again ceded the initiative to the U’s.

Sears soon saw a deflected shot beaten away in fine style by Turnbull before the Reds secured the two-goal buffer, which would ultimately prove key, 20 minutes from time.

After being denied by the officials in the first half, Ramage’s powerful header from Hourihane’s well-delivered corner was this time legitimate.

Sears fired home the goal his performance merited not long after.

It was the prelude to a strong finish from the visitors, but the hosts held out, although not exactly convincingly on a night when they made hard work of securing victory.

Barnsley: Turnbull; Cranie, Ramage, Nyatanga, Dudgeon; Cole, Berry, Bailey, Hourihane; Hemmings (Jennings 84), Cole, Winnall (Bree 93). Unused substitutes: Davies, Brown, Treacy, M’Voto, Lita.

Colchester United: Walker; Hewitt, Clohessy, Eastman, O’Donoghue, Watt (Roofe 80), Gilbey, Fox (Szmodics 85), Moncur, Massey (Healey 72); Sears. Unused substitutes: Lewington, Gordon, Eastmond, Harney.

Referee: R Clark (Northumberland).