Analysis from Barnsley’s 1-1 draw at Accrington Stanley which ended a five-match winning run. James Norwood put the Reds in front but the hosts levelled with a disputed penalty.
CONTROVERSIAL PENALTY CHANGES GAME
Rebecca Welch is a trail-blazer and history-maker after becoming the first woman to referee an EFL match last year.
Regardless of gender, human error is possible with all referees and Welch seemed to make a serious misjudgment when awarding a penalty for handball after a shot was blasted into Liam Kitching’s body on the hour-mark. If it hit his hand, it was going to hit his midriff anyway.
Barnsley had been well on top with Accrington looking unlikely to score.
The Reds also thought Welch should have awarded a penalty for a foul on Devante Cole at 1-1.
She generally frustrated the away players and crowd in the second half with a series of decisions against them.
Regardless of Welch’s errors, Barnsley could have defended better in the build-up to the penalty while they missed a series of fine chances.
ENOUGH CHANCES TO WIN EASILY
The last time Barnsley visited Accrington, for a 2-0 win in 2018, their scorers were Cauley Woodrow and Kieffer Moore.
Both those strikers netted 19 goals that campaign, at a rate of one goal every two matches, and have gone on to be regulars at higher levels – the Premier League and World Cup in Moore’s case.
Barnsley do not appear to have that kind of firepower this season, and need help in that regard in January. Their options on the bench on Saturday were attacking midfielders Josh Martin - who came on with minimal impact - and Jack Aitchison as well as 17-year-old Fabio Jalo.
They missed a series of chances at the Wham. But they have been scoring regularly recently, as a team, and this match can be put down as just a bad day in front of goal. Credit must also go to Accrington’s well-named goalkeeper Toby Savin.
It started so well with Norwood ending a three-month goalless run with an early opener, getting in the six-yard box to net after Cole did the same twice in the previous game - something the strikers have been encouraged to do.
Cole has been a real positive this season, and caused problems in the first half, but he missed a hat-trick of chances, including firing over the bar almost on the line at 1-0. He was leaning back but it was a very poor miss.
It was not just Cole who was profligate.
Nicky Cadden’s agonising wait for a first Barnsley goal goes on.
Early in the second half, he was played clean through by a Cundy pass but saw his shot from the left of the box saved Savin.
Adam Phillips – who returned from illness in place of the benched Matty Wolfe – looked extremely confident and fired-up, hitting a series of early shots which were blocked, saved or went wide. He also set up the Reds goal and won five headers in the first half.
Like most players, he faded in the second half but should have won it in the 80th minute when substitute Wolfe’s clever touch put him one-on-one with Savin who sprang to his left to save the underhit effort.
REDS FADE AFTER CHANGES
The Reds controlled the game for 50 minutes but could not add to Norwood’s opener then seemed to lose their way and go quite flat, with the hosts levelling before surviving a late onslaught.
Barnsley had been so dominant in general play that two wide centre-backs Liam Kitching and Robbie Cundy had freedom to get forward and contribute in attack almost constantly.
But the Reds lost some control after Luca Connell was taken off at half-time having been booked then warned again by the referee. He was replaced by Wolfe with Herbie Kane dropping back from the more attacking role in which he can drive forward and link up with the forwards. That seemed to unsettle the Reds, as did relegation-battling Stanley’s change in formation after 50 minutes to four at the back from 3-5-2.
The Reds generally lacked the sharpness in their passing of recent games while their set pieces were mostly poor.
GOT TO HAVE FAITH DESPITE DRAW AT WHAM STADIUM
Although Barnsley were disappointed not to win at the Wham Stadium, they have come a long way since last Christmas on and off the pitch.
The Reds were let down by refereeing errors and poor finishing at a ground named after a local plastic houseware manufacturer rather than George Michael’s band.
Results like this might make talk of catching the top two seem like careless whispers but the Reds have got to have faith that can compete for the play-offs at least.
The opportunity for questionable musical puns was not just limited to the stadium name.
Tommy Leigh netted the controversial penalty leveller for Stanley’s motley crew while a team with R Astley were never going to give it up.
FANS BRAVE RAIN AND HAILSTORMS
It was certainly a day of extremes on and off the pitch in Lancashire.
The hailstones drummed on the low roofs along both sides of the small ground and bombarded the away supporters in the stand behind a goal which was uncovered, revealing an imposing hill overlooking the ground before the winter light faded in the second half.
It looked for the first hour like the nearly 2,000 away fans - almost half the crowd - would be rewarded for their loyalty but it was just the second time this season, after the September home draw with Port Vale, that Barnsley took the lead but did not win.
It was certainly a frustrating afternoon but
most will realise that Barnsley were certainly the better team overall and it could easily have been a sixth league straight win so there may not be too much long-lasting disappointment. Barnsley remain fourth, unbeaten in six and a much more united club in all aspects than at that the start of this year.