End of goal drought drives on Luke Thomas to avoid repeat show at Barnsley

LUKE THOMAS waited 21 games to score his second Barnsley goal of the season but he is determined not to wait that long for another.

Barnsley's Luke Thomas, left, and Fulham's Tom Cairney, right, battle for the ball on the opening day of the season. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

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After finding the net on the opening day of the campaign , as the Tykes beat Fulham 1-0 at Oakwell, the midfielder hadn’t got his name on the scoresheet again until his late strike against Crewe Alexandra on Sunday.

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But Thomas’s desire to end his scoring drought was highlighted in the FA Cup third round clash, as he relentlessly chased Kenny Dougall’s long ball to slot into an empty net with the final act of the match.

INCOMING: Barnsley's Austrian defender Marcel Ritzmaier, in action for Wolfsberg against Borussia Moenchengladbach the Europa League in Graz on November last year. Picture: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images.

Crewe had sent their goalkeeper up for a late set-piece but Barnsley capitalised with Thomas sealing their place in the fourth round.

“I saw that it fell to Kenny on the edge of the box and I knew he would clear it, so I just got my head down and ran. It definitely wasn’t going in so I just had to make sure,” said Thomas.

“I needed that because I hadn’t scored for a while. That is good for my confidence and hopefully I can bag a few more.

“I have had some chances to score and the longer it takes to get a goal, the more it plays on your mind.

Barnsley manager Gerhard Struber on the touchline at Pride Park last Thursday. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA

“So I am glad that is out of the way now.

“I haven’t scored since that first game of the season, so I am really happy to get on the scoresheet.

“And what a brilliant way to do it, in front of a packed away end.”

Thomas has predominantly been deployed on the left side of a midfield diamond for Barnsley since Gerhard Struber’s arrival as manager in November.

The 20-year-old is enjoying the change of position but admits there are areas of his game that he wants to work on.

He added: “I always need to improve, especially my end product. It has let me down recently. Hopefully I can keep working hard and make the correct decision in the final third more often than not.”

Crewe are the joint-highest scorers in League Two and Thomas revealed the steps Barnsley took to make sure that no complacency crept into the side on Sunday afternoon.

He said: “It is great for us to get through to the next round. It is never easy coming to sides even when they are two leagues lower than you.

“We had a meeting before the game to make sure every player was up for it.

“And in the end it was a professional performance.

“We had to be wary of what they could offer. They are certainly a good footballing side.

“Both teams wanted to get the ball down and play good football.”

The victory was an instant response to Barnsley’s disappointing defeat at Derby County on Thursday night.

And the Tykes return to Championship action on Saturday as they prepare to host West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town.

The Reds midfield options for the fixture have been bolstered with the signing of midfielder Marcel Ritzmaier on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The 26-year-old will be able to provide Reds manager Gerhard Struber with versatility in midfield and can also operate at left-back.

He will bring plenty of experience to Oakwell, having played over 250 career games and featured for PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League.

Ritzmaier has played for Austria at youth level and has made 18 appearances for Wolfsberger AC – Struber’s former club – this season, scoring twice and notching four assists.

“I am really happy to sign for Barnsley and to play in England,” said Ritzmaier. “I have played for eight-and-a-half years in the Netherlands and also in Austria and also the Europa League so I hope I can bring some experience to the team.”

Struber added: “Marcel is a special player and will offer us more options for positions in the diamond.

“He will be a good player for this club.”