Written by Ian Hope @halftimepiesite
By 5pm on Saturday as we walked out of Oakwell, the reds were the strongest side in the Championship. Well they had to be as victories for Stoke and Reading had meant Barnsley were now bottom of the league and propping the rest up.
Strangely enough that did not bother me. Me and the other twelve and a half thousand supporters had seen the reds make a top three side look average and in truth wasted some guilt edged chances to win all three points.
Prior to the game I and many others were apprehensive about how the game and atmosphere would play out given this was the first game since the idiotic decision to sack Daniel Stendel. I was fearful of a nightmare start like the home game against Luton or maybe Barnsley would start well then be getting picked off like the Brentford game. Either of those scenarios had me worried that the atmosphere would turn toxic and fans would vent their anger (and rightly so) towards the board. We all know that would not help those eleven lads in red shirts but it was never going to be pretty if Swansea started blowing the reds away.
Fear not as it was Swansea on the back foot for the first twenty minutes, a team who looked very average for most of the first half as Barnsley asserted themselves right from the first whistle. In fact, those in red never stopped for the full 95 minutes.
Just prior to kick off both clubs and their supporters paid respects to Jeffrey Wroe, a lifelong red who sadly passed away at Oakwell recently with a minutes applause.
Within the first ten minutes, Barnsley could have been two goals up as they caught their visitors napping with a bright start. Firstly, Cavare`s long throw into the box caused chaos and eventually it was saved on the goal line.
Cameron McGeehan had one of those days in front of goal blazing over after Woodrow`s shot was spilled. A little bit more composure and possibly putting the boots on the right feet would have helped as the Tykes should have been ahead. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only time McGeehan leaned back and went for power when in a great scoring position from a few yards out.
As the majority of the hosts attacks were coming down the right in Cavare, Swansea struggled to deal with how their hosts were playing. The reds set up as a 3-5-2 formation with Sibbick, Halme and Diaby as the three central defenders with Brown and Cavare playing as wing backs. When defending that three became a five. Overall Halme had Sam Surridge, Swansea`s striker in his back pocket with Surridge eventually being substituted later on. From the off, Surridge cut a frustrated figure as Halme and Diaby were aggressive, confident and positive in their approach. Halme won the majority of headers all game, Diaby was quick snuffing out danger.
The introduction of Kenny Dougall in midfield seemed to settle the side allowing Mowatt to play further forward. Funny how an experienced player (26 years of age) can make a difference isn’t it? Take note board!! Conor Chaplin was lively throughout and often played the main striker role allowing Woodrow to drop and receive the ball. Chaplin supported Woodrow well, something which hasn’t happened enough this season. In fact Chaplin was at the centre of a lot of what was good about the reds attacking play.
It took Swansea 19 minutes to come to life with Ayew having a shot at Brad Collins goal. Ayew was the only opposition player who looked on a different level. His premier league experience shone through and he got more into the game in the second half always looking a goal threat on the counter attack.
Throughout the first half the reds played with confidence, a determination to win the ball back and played the neat short passing in the middle of the pitch that they served up regularly all last season. The reds went into half time with applause ringing in their ears.
In the second half Swansea upped the pressure but not before McGeehan blazed over at the Ponty end from 5 yards when it was easier to score, in reality Barnsley should have been two goals up with that chance, fine margins in the Championship.
The game became more stretched with Swansea looking more of a goal threat with Brad Collins earning his match fee with some great saves. Since Radlinger suffered his injury, Collins has been a steady goalkeeper. He was confident in the air catching crosses and he is a great shot stopper, just sometimes he came out of his box when the defence didn’t expect it and caused a few heart stopping moments, but overall he fully deserved his man of the match award. I counted three top saves in the space of the first 18 minutes in the second half but the goal that did come for the visitors came again from individual errors.
Defenders diving in and not staying on their feet allowed Ayew to scramble the ball over the line. It had been coming. The fear was would a collapse now come? Would confidence crumble or heads go down? Not one bit of it.
Within a couple of minutes the reds were back in the game. Chaplin again causing problems down the right and this time his cross found an unmarked Mowatt who once he got the ball onto his left foot, you knew he was going to score. Where McGeehan blazed over, Mowatt calmly placed his shot into the left corner and Oakwell erupted. Game on again.
The game continued to be stretched in the final ten minutes with Woodrow shooting over after a smart turn on the edge of the box and Mowatt almost picking out the top corner.
In the end it was a battling point for the reds. There was pride in the performance with players upping their individual games but a slight disappointment that it was two points dropped. Barnsley can thank Collins for his 4 or 5 great saves but the reds could and should have been a couple of goals clear by that point.
Barnsley chased Swansea all over the pitch with a battling performance that oozed togetherness. Halme and Diaby looked a better central defensive partnership and the 3-5-2 formation gave the reds more defensively and in attack with the use of the wing backs. Dougall was a huge upgrade in midfield on Bahre and McGeehan who has been poor this season had a much better first half despite his misses. Mowatt, Chaplin and Woodrow made things happen up front and caused Swansea problems all game.
Once again it is fine margins in this league and stating the obvious, the reds need to put some of their guilt edged chances away. However, the players heads never dropped and they got something out of the game.