‘Six massive games’ left for Barnsley - big-match verdict

On target: Cauley Woodrow celebrates scoring Barnsley's second goal.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson
On target: Cauley Woodrow celebrates scoring Barnsley's second goal. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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The way some Barnsley players sank to the floor at the final whistle you could have been forgiven for thinking they had just been relegated rather than having stretched their unbeaten record to 20 games.

Midfield driving force Alex Mowatt admitted: “It’s disappointing, the lads are gutted.”

The result, however, pushed them five and six points ahead of EFL Trophy finalists Portsmouth and Sunderland, who have one and three games in hand, respectively.

But it made the task of overhauling leaders Luton, who won at Bristol Rovers, more difficult as there is now a seven-point gap.

Promotion is the priority and it has to be remembered that both Pompey and the Black Cats have yet to play Coventry, whose attacking verve makes them a big threat as they aim to gatecrash the play-offs.

Their manager, former Reds chief Mark Robins, had set a target of five wins from the last seven games before Saturday’s trip to Oakwell and his side would have chalked off one of them had it not been for a series of fine saves from Wales international Adam Davies late on.

The Barnsley defence which had kept seven successive clean sheets was, for once, strangely hesitant as powerful front-runner Amadou Bakayoko, backed by the skills and pace of Bright Enobakhare and the direct threat of Luke Thomas out wide gave them no respite after the break.

Barnsley, rated by Robins as the best team in the division, failed to build on scoring an early goal in each half.

The second-placed Oakwell side were dominant in the first period with Mamadou Thiam partnering Cauley Woodrow down the middle to good effect as Ryan Hedges, also back from Wales duty, and Jacob Brown were given the flank roles.

It was Thiam who set up the 10th-minute opener, cutting the ball back for Mowatt to strike home his sixth goal of the season from close range. Further chances were spurned, generally owing to wayward shooting, and Coventry made them pay in the 35th minute. Jordy Hiwula moved inside, played the ball out to left-back Brandon Mason and raced into the area to chest down the deep cross and slam the ball into the roof of the net for his 10th goal of the campaign as Liam Lindsay failed to react.

Woodrow quickly put the Reds back ahead after the break with his 15th goal of the campaign, having sent Hedges down the left before placing the return cutback into the far corner in the 48th minute.

Jed Thomas was denied by Davies before finding space on the edge of the area to fire into the roof of the net in the 62nd minute after Bright Enobakhare had blocked an attempted clearance from Ben Williams.

Davies denied Hiwula and it was the Reds captain who came to the rescue as Lindsay’s weak backpass was intercepted by Bakayoko, who, however, was forced to run the ball dead before crashing into the advertising hoardings after the Barnsley goalkeeper had dashed out to cut down the scoring angle.

Davies made a double save before the game went into six minutes of stoppage time and it was the Reds who were the most relieved to hear the final whistle, especially after their captain had palmed over a close-range header from Bakayoko from Liam Kelly’s free-kick.

Mowatt reflected: “I thought before the game it was one we should have won. We conceded two sloppy goals and we had a lot of chances and should have put the game to bed a lot earlier.

“We had seven clean sheets before this but although we had to concede at some time these were two sloppy goals.

“We wanted to get as many points as we could to put pressure on Portsmouth and Sunderland as they attempt to chase us down but it’s still a point in the right direction and they have still to catch us.”

Mowatt is hoping that not only will Barnsley finish their camapign with a flourish but so will he. “I did set myself 10 goals at the start of the season so I have four more to score in the last six games and hopefully it can happen.

“I think there is a bit of a downer in the squad at the minute but we have to take the positives out of this and go again next Saturday. There are six more games to play – six massive games.”

Barnsley head coach Daniel Stendel was determined not to be too down after dropping home points. “It is good to have the points on the board and we can only look to our games. The other teams need to win, especially Sunderland, who have some difficult games,” he said.

“We fight every game and have not lost a game all year so to go 20 unbeaten is a very good achievement and I am very proud of my team with their attitude.”

Stendel conceded Barnsley’s defending was not at its best but added: “We gave them so much space in the last 20 minutes only because we wanted to win so much and were attacking.

“Yes, we are a little bit disappointed by the result and to concede the first goal in a long time was the main part for me. It’s a big time in the season and if we take 18 points from the last six games then we have every chance.”

Barnsley: Davies, Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, B Williams; McGeehan, Mowatt; Brown (Green 81), Thiam (Adeboyejo 88), Hedges (Bahre 76); Woodrow. Unused substitutes: Walton, Jackson, Styles, J Williams.

Coventry City: Burge, Sterling, Willis, Hyam, Mason (Brown 79); Thomas (Wakefield 86), Kelly, Bayliss, Hiwula; Enobakhare; Bakayoko. Unused substitutes: Addai, Grimmer, Davies, Meyler, Shipley.

Referee: S Martin (Staffs).