Come Saturday morning, the weather mirrored the mood around Barnsley as it rained cats and dogs with dark clouds overhead after the news on Friday that Cameron McGeehan had been unsuccessful in his appeal on charges of violent conduct. Thus meaning the midfielder would have to serve a three match ban starting with the visit of Accrington Stanley. With Jacob Brown also suspended and Kieffer Moore out injured for the remainder of the season, the mood had darkened slightly despite the Reds sitting 2nd in the league.
However, by full time, the mood had returned to one of positivity and looking forward to taking on a Sunderland side at Oakwell who despite scoring a last minute equaliser at Wycombe, were now 4 points adrift of Barnsley. The weather had also read the script and dark clouds were replaced by blue skies even if most people needed defrosting due to the cold wind sweeping around Oakwell.
Accrington rolled into town four points off the relegation places and with a determination to slow Barnsley`s promotion charge by slowing the game down at every opportunity from the first whistle. Delaying taking goal kicks and free kicks were the tactics of the day in the hope to frustrate their hosts which only succeeded in winding up the crowd.
Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies was making his 200th appearance for the Tykes and apart from the odd long range effort, he wasn’t troubled too much by Stanley. In fact he was the instigator in most of the defensive worries with poor decision making with his distribution. Several times Davies held onto the ball too long when his side had opportunities to break quickly. Davies also put Liam Lindsay in trouble with short passes when the defender had a striker bearing down on him thus creating slight panic in and around Barnsley`s penalty area. However, this was ironed out after half time.
The first half was a scrappy affair with Barnsley struggling to break into their usual rhythm. Whether that was down to the blustery conditions, the opposition packing midfield or the change in personnel in midfield either way there were only glimpses of the slick pass and move style associated with Daniel Stendel`s side.
There were promising moments where Mowatt, Bahre, Dougall and Woodrow linked up nicely with some neat fast passing resulting in chances to open the scoring. In fact two players who stood out in the first half were Lindsay with another assured performance against a physical Accrington forward line and the lively Jordan Green.
Green appeared to be Barnsley`s main threat on the wing, taking on defenders at every opportunity. His pace clearly worried the visitors who dished out some rough treatment in trying to deal with him. Several times Green was dispatched onto the turf yet each time he dusted himself down and got on with the job. He was unlucky not to score with a few shots, one hitting the post in the second half and fully deserved his standing ovation when substituted on the hour.
The first half was crying out for someone to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, to dictate and spread play using the space on the wings. A succession of shots did come from the hosts with Woodrow dragging one wide and Mowatt curling a shot just wide of the post. The visitors were reduced to long range shots which failed to trouble Davies in goal.
Barnsley`s opening goal came from Woodrow making use of the space by playing a great ball into Cavare`s path and the defender drilled the ball into the corner and the Reds were up and running. With Barnsley`s tails up, the home side went into a two goal lead just as the fourth official put his board up announcing two minutes of added time. A cross from Thiam caused chaos in the Accrington box resulting in Wood putting the ball into his own net. Game over already.
The second half was much more like what we have come to expect from Stendel`s side with a complete dominance of the opposition, shots rattling in on the opposition goalkeeper and neat interchange of passing from the midfield to open sides up. Time after time, the Accrington keeper stopped shots flying at him from in and around the area and the corner count was mounting up.
Green hit the post, Lindsay saw a header saved from 4 yards out and Thiam was nutmegging defenders not once but twice in the matter of seconds. The Ponty end were showing their appreciation of Cavare`s performance singing his name for a near ten minutes. With the football being one way traffic, songs of possible promotion rang around Oakwell as Barnsley found their rhythm.
Accrington were reduced to the odd counter attack and came close a couple of times to score most notably when substitute Billy Kee missed a one on one with Davies after a long clearance from Stanley`s keeper evaded everyone. The 281 visiting supporters had little to shout about in the second half as Barnsley wasted several chances when bearing down on goal.
Bahre and Thiam fully deserved their standing ovations when substituted but man of the match went to Cavare. After an initial first fifteen minutes where he struggled to deal with the winger and the wind, he settled down and went on his usual charging runs at the opposition.
Overall, another satisfying day for Barnsley especially with Luton and Sunderland dropping points. Just like the Bradford and Scunthorpe home games, you came away wondering how the Reds had not won by 5 or 6? Now this game is out of the way, everyone can look forward to the visit of Sunderland on Tuesday night.