Analysis of Barnsley's 2-2 draw at Queens Park Rangers in which they were 2-0 up at half-time. Dominik Frieser and Cauley Woodrow, with his 50th goal for the Reds, scored for the visitors but the hosts netted in the 76th and 91st minutes.
SENSATIONAL FIRST HALF
Barnsley were simply magnificent for 45 minutes, surging into a 2-0 lead with well-worked goals and constructing a series of other excellent moves including with some breath-taking one-touch football that ripped the home side open time and again.
This looked set to be another glorious away day in West London for Barnsley who won at Fulham last year then twice at Brentford.
Each time they pressed frantically then attacked with skill against a side that tried and failed to play out from the back.
It was the same for 45 minutes against QPR, the first team who tried to build up possession from the back against Barnsley this season.
QPR gifted Valerien Ismael’s Barnsley a flying start last November and this looked being a kickstart for Markus Schopp.
They looked set to make it six straight wins over Mark Warburton, five against QPR and three at Loftus Road, as they closed in on their first victory in front of the home Hoops fans since 1950.
The first half was a perfect fusion of Ismael's off-the-ball discipline and energy with the type of expressive, attractive football Schopp wants to bring to the team.
It was the total opposite of the midweek game against Luton when they dominated the ball but struggled to do much with it.
Josh Benson 50 made fewer passes and 65 fewer touches in this game than four days earlier against Luton but he made the most of the possession he had in the first half, as he caught the eye with sensational play in the build-up to both goals.
Callum Styles, who played at left wing-back again, was also involved in both goals and was outstanding in the first half, while Romal Palmer backed them up by winning a succession of tackles.
Callum Brittain, who created big first half chances for Liam Kitching and Cauley Woodrow, completed a midfield quartet that combined very well with the fluid front three of Clarke Oduor and scorers Dominik Frieser and Woodrow.
GAME SLIPS AWAY AFTER BREAK
Schopp mentioned the words 'naive' and 'inexperienced' several times each in his post-match press conference in which he said the Reds, who missed a series of chances, should have had the game won at half-time and that the draw 'felt like a loss'.
At times in the first half, Styles and Benson looked as good as Alex Mowatt was at this ground last season with a fantastic free-kick goal and two assists, or Barnsley hero Neil Redfearn who was in the Sky studio on Saturday. But they lack the experience of Mowatt or Redfearn at their peak and could not see the victory out.
In the second half, Styles and Benson had to show the dark sides of their game – receiving yellow cards for scything down QPR players who were on the counter-attack as the Reds continued to attack and were regularly caught on the break.
Schopp accused his side of naivety, and there was certainly some truth to that as they made sloppy errors at both ends of the pitch, but the head coach must also take some responsibility for Barnsley not being able to see out the win.
Benson and Palmer were taken off in the second half for Jasper Moon and Aapo Halme who are natural centre-backs but have played in midfield. The aim was to add some physicality and defensive solidity to the midfield to see the game out but the result was that the Reds retreated further towards their goal and struggled to keep the ball. They turned into a team of defenders but that is not always helpful for defending as a team.
QPR boss Mark Warburton's changes had the opposite impact. He made two substitutions after 35 minutes, taking off midfielder Andre Dozzell and striker George Thomas, who was playing right wing-back, introducing Dominic Ball who anchored the midfield and Albert Adomah whose skill and pace caused major problems, especially for Kitching.
The Hoops, who changed from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2, looked far more solid after the break and seemed able to cut through the Barnsley attack in a way that got their fans behind them even before the goals.
DECENT POINT AT UNBEATEN FORM TEAM
In the end, Barnsley were deflated with a point but still were applauded off by their noisy fans and would certainly have taken a draw at the start of the day.
This was always a tough assignment as QPR came into this game unbeaten and had scored three goals each in wins at Hull and Middlesbrough earlier in the week.
The Hoops had an even better second second half of last season than Barnsley, in terms of points, then kept their same manager and key players while adding several signings.
QPR played a day later than Barnsley in midweek, and with ten men for the last 40 minutes, and had several players injured or ill including star striker Lyndon Dykes. They made four changes and only had six substitutes in an 18-man squad that included 13 different nationalities, nine of them full internationals.
FRIESER'S ICE COOL FINISHING
Dominik Frieser opened the scoring as he showed ice cool finishing in a one-on-one situation for the second successive Saturday. The Austrian looked extremely confident as he often played on the shoulder of the last defender while also getting involved in general play much more than usual and displaying some fine touches.
On this form, he looks capable of reaching double figures this season – along with Woodrow and Carlton Morris, if the latter stays fit once he returns from injury – which would be extremely helpful for the Reds.
Frieser could easily have equalled his tally of three goals last season in only the fourth game if he had been set up correctly by Woodrow when they both went through on goal at 2-0. But the captain overhit his pass and, seconds later, the hosts scored the first of two late goals.
That was one of two glaring errors late on by Woodrow who also rounded goalkeeper Senny Dieng when a QPR defender played him onside from a goalkeeper kick but hit the side netting. Woodrow had six shots, including when he was denied from a tight angle on the right of the box by Dieng in the first half.
WOODROW'S 50 GOALS WONDERFUL ACHIEVEMENT
Woodrow admitted later he should have scored more than one goal, but it was a special one that took him to a fantastic tally of 50 goals for the club in 133 games.
It is extremely rare for a player to pass a half century of goals for one EFL club these days, as shown by the fact that Woodrow is the first to do so since Bruce Dyer 20 years ago. He is clearly one of the best players in the Reds' recent history, and should be considered an Oakwell legend.
It is highly unlikely that Barnsley would be in the Championship without Woodrow, whose goals fired them to promotion in 2019 then kept them up a year later before being top-scorer for a third season last year. He has the ability to offer far more than just goals with his link-up play and workrate while he can be an inspirational figure as captain.
He was involved in many of the Reds' best moves in the first half but seemed to lose his composure in key moments as the game went on.