Analysis of Barnsley's 3-0 win at home to Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday. Herbie Kane, Callum Styles and Devante Cole netted.
FIRST HOME LEAGUE PENALTY FOR NEARLY 600 DAYS
Since Barnsley were last given a penalty at Oakwell in the league, the UK has had three Prime Ministers and two Monarchs while the Reds have had three head coaches, been relegated and reached a play-off final.
So when Simon Mather pointed to the spot in the 19th minute, there was more than the usual celebration of a penalty among the players and fans who welcomed the end of a 34-game and 591-day wait since Carlton Morris netted from the spot for Poya Asbaghi’s Reds against Fulham in March last year.
They had only been given one in the league last season – which Adam Phillips missed at Forest Green before scoring the rebound – with some glaring infringements not seen and plenty awarded at the other end such as the harsher handball given against Jamie McCart three days earlier.
Almost a year ago, Carl Winchester was using his hands to empty a bottle of water over one of the pitchside towels Barnsley placed around Shrewsbury’s pitch to wipe the ball for long throws. This time, he used his arms to block Barry Cotter’s shot in the penalty area and the referee’s whistle pierced the cold Tuesday night air.
England have their expert penalty-taker in Harry Kane, and Barnsley’s Herbie Kane stepped up to emulate his namesake with a cool finish in a high-pressure situation given the long wait and all the, understandable, complaints about a lack of penalties.
Neill Collins said later that he had designated Kane as penalty-taker for the first match then ‘not wasted my breath’ since then due to Barnsley’s lack of spot-kicks.
But Kane remembered and got his second goal of the week during an impressive performance which saw him pass very well and defend diligently in his own box when necessary.
STYLES NETS BUT IS NOW BANNED
Shrewsbury felt the penalty was harsh and were also frustrated with the second goal five minutes later – claiming Mael de Gevigney fouled Mal Benning in the Reds box seconds before Callum Styles netted at the other end.
There was some minimal contact between de Gevigney and Benning but it would have been an extremely soft penalty.
The French defender then played a fine pass down the right wing for Devante Cole who knocked the ball past the lumbering Chey Dunkley near halfway and, despite bumping into the linesman, kept it in play so was free to drive into the box and square to Callum Styles for a simple tap-in.
Barnsley had showed their ruthless side with two quick goals and were then in full control.
It was Styles’ third goal in six Barnsley games but he will not have the chance to add to his fine recent run of performances on Saturday as he had earlier up picked up a harsh booking for a late slide tackle on a slippery surface.
It was his fifth yellow card of the season for Styles – who returned from illness and replaced Josh Benson – so he will serve a one-game ban.
But Barnsley have good replacements in either Benson or Adam Phillips, who came on at half-time on Tuesday for Styles as Collins wanted to avoid a second booking.
It might be more than a month until Styles plays a league game at Oakwell again as he is likely to be called up by Hungary.
COLE’S TEN GOALS IN 14 GAMES SUPERB ACHIEVEMENT
The third goal came during a second half when Barnsley were not as free-flowing and in control as before the break, but still limited their visitors to barely any chances.
Cole received an excellent pass from substitute Owen Dodgson then, after a clever one-two with another replacement Max Watters, went clean through on goal and finished as you would expect from the division’s top-scorer.
It was his tenth goal of the season – a superb achievement after just 14 matches – and ended a four-game goalless run, but it was not just his scoring which stood out.
He brilliantly set up the second goal – his second assist of the week – and produced fine hold-up play throughout.
At one point, he received the ball on halfway with no team-mates anywhere near and five defenders back but still managed to surge into the box and shoot just wide of the top left corner.
In a team of good performers, he was the stand-out player and just reinforced the point that, should he leave in January, the Reds would lose as close to a complete striker and guaranteed goal-scorer as you will realistically find at League One level.
BARNSLEY SHINE IN FIRST HALF, SOLID IN SECOND
The first half was probably Barnsley’s best performance since the astonishing second half rout of Port Vale on the opening day – as they scored twice but also played some excellent football to confound their visitors.
The second half was more prosaic but they were rarely threatened by Shrewsbury who arrived in 15th but had collected seven points from their last nine games including a win over Derby on Saturday.
The visitors turned up with the fourth best defensive record in the division, with 13 goals conceded in as many games, but only bottom club Cheltenham had scored fewer than their seven so, once they let in two in five minutes midway through the first half, there looked no way back.
Barnsley’s back three of Jordan Williams, de Gevigney and McCart were again very good and, since being put together in late September, the only goals the Reds have conceded have been two penalties. It had looked like the weak area of the team but is becoming very solid and allowing the attacking stars in front of them to win games.
They protected home league debutant goalkeeper Ben Killip who looked nervous from crosses at times and, although he did not have a save to make, was indebted to Nicky Cadden for clearing a Dunkley header off the line at 2-0.
In midfield, Kane and Jon Russell played with a real confidence and swagger – especially in the first half – making fine passes and producing clever touches which regularly put team-mates in good attacking positions.
John McAtee – back in the team for Watters – looked fired-up against the club where he started his career as he dropped deep from up front to link play well while also rattling the visitors with his pressing.
MUCH-NEEDED HOME WIN AFTER POOR OAKWELL RUN
The Reds had lost four of their last five home league games, including the most recent two and were desperate to give their home supporters something to cheer in this match and against lowly Fleetwood on Saturday.
It had been 25 days since Barnsley’s dismal home loss to Blackpool, during which time they had collected seven points from a possible nine while travelling more than 1,000 miles to Cambridge, Exeter and Leyton Orient – also experiencing a bus fire which destroyed most of their equipment.
They looked determined to put things right at Oakwell.
When Barnsley beat Shrewsbury 2-1 in April, it was an eighth straight home win in a run of
nine which is the best such sequence in more than a century. They are not at that level yet but
they cantered to the kind of routine victory they need to be collecting regularly at Oakwell if they are to challenge for promotion, allied with their superb unbeaten away record.
It must be said that Shrewsbury are not of the same standard as the sides who have won at Oakwell this season and Barnsley’s performances against their promotion rivals remains an issue.
But a comfortable home win is a really positive step in the right direction and they must be delighted with their position of third in the league and a points total that is five more than at this stage last season, while knowing the real hard work is yet to come.