Nottingham Forest 0 Barnsley 0: Steele in top form to prove his mettle for Reds

Luke SteeleLuke Steele
Luke Steele
DISCONSOLATE, bewildered and more than a tad embarrassed the previous Saturday, Barnsley captain Luke Steele had his redemption seven days on.

The Reds custodian endured a tortuous day and night on April 13 after picking the ball out of his net on six occasions as Charlton Athletic ran amok at Oakwell. His emotions on Saturday were infinitely sweeter.

Rightfully handed the bouquets after a super showing against Billy Davies’s play-off chasers, bullish Steele was in positive mode after what could turn out to be a huge survival point for Barnsley, just a week after the Reds were picking up the pieces after a 6-0 home hammering.

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Quite how David Flitcroft’s side chiselled out a point on the banks of the Trent is a mystery with Forest hitting the woodwork on four separate occasions and Steele making several top-notch saves.

But, in the final analysis, it is points rather than performances that matter at a climatic end of season for Steele, his team-mates, manager and the 1,190 visiting fans who made the short trip down the M1 on Saturday.

The upshot is that the Reds, while still second-from-bottom, are level on points with Wolves and Peterborough United, who both suffered away defeats, thanks to their hard-earned draw at the City Ground.

With two games to go, at home to Hull City and away at White Rose rivals Huddersfield Town, Barnsley still have every chance of completing their ‘Great Escape’ mission, which Steele insists would rate as the highlight of his career if it is accomplished.

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Steele, who revealed his hurt at playing so poorly a few hours after the Charlton game in a tweet to Barnsley fans, said: “After the 6-0 result, I was devastated and had played really poorly – the worst I had played after three games in which I had been strong. It was totally out of character and no-one felt good.

“The emotions of getting beaten 6-0 on your own patch are humiliating and embarrassing and it was hard to take and I took it poorly for a couple of days. But I felt strong enough to then get over it.

“It is impossible to completely wipe something like that out as it hurts, being a professional. But the best keepers and sportsmen eradicate mistakes the quickest. The top players have a heart of stone, if you like.”

He added: “We feel Charlton is well behind us now. We cannot afford to dwell on it or talk and think about it. We have had loads of bad results this season, but now is such an important time, we have said: ‘Let’s not dwell on what has happened; every team gets a spanking every now and then.’

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“Everyone is delighted with the point at Forest. Results went for us for once and three of us are on 51 points and going into the next two games, we feel good and are confident.

“Every team is trying to achieve something every year and in 2013, it has been about sustaining our Championship status. Even though there is no trophy and award, it will feel like a mini-victory if we stay up.

“I know how hard the lads have worked and want it for each other; the closeness we have got is ridiculous and if we survive, it will be the best feeling I have had in football so far.”

Minus the services of senior players Stephen Foster, Bobby Hassell, Stephen Dawson and Rory Delap and other key contributors to their safety quest such as Kelvin Etuhu, the Reds dug deep to hit upon a rich seam of resolution at Forest.

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Granted, Saturday was not a performance for the purists. But after an emotionally tough week which had seen Derby County cruelly deny them three precious points at the death following that capitulation against Charlton, it showed Barnsley possess plentiful supplies of determination, bottle and character.

All of which will be needed if they are to see their survival mission through.

A long afternoon for the Reds rearguard began on five minutes when Andrai Jones, making his full debut at right-back, diverted Billy Sharp’s goalbound shot and that ‘over-my-dead-body’ brand of defending was to become a recurring theme.

If that did not save the visitors, the woodwork did, first when Henri Lansbury’s header from Radoslaw Majewski’s swinging corner clipped the bar shortly before the half-hour mark.

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Steele then came to the fore to deny former Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers marksman Sharp and then Adlene Guedioura twice ahead of the interval.

The Reds goalkeeper was also on overtime in the second period, with Barnsley’s semblance of attacking threat pretty non-existent with their first shot arriving on 51 minutes. Lansbury was denied again, before the post thwarted the best efforts of Andy Reid and Sharp, who also saw a header expertly saved by Steele.

As Forest laid siege, it was Sharp who knocked on wood again towards the end, his header clipping the top of the bar to sum up his day, with Barnsley the ones with springs in their step at the final whistle.

Steele added: “It is a point gained. It was tough and we cannot say we deserved to win and they were the better team. But we defended really well with blocks and challenges and this point could prove really important at the end of the season.

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“We are looking forward to games and want to play Hull next Saturday. I have been in teams before where they have not been scared, but a bit tentative. But this whole season, we have felt good and have had some good results and want the games to come.

“That should hold us in good stead with two huge games to focus on. It is so exciting and I really cannot wait for the next game to arrive.”

Their inability to break through left Forest in eighth place, two points behind Bolton and one adrift of Leicester in sixth and seventh, respectively.