As afternoons go, in the end it wasn’t as nerve wracking as expected thanks to a well managed second half performance by Barnsley that saw the reds put a spirited Blackpool to the sword.
After watching the reds play Blackpool away twice this season, I felt this game was always going to be a difficult one. Beaten comfortably in the Carabao cup game 3-1 and a gritty hard fought 1-0 win over the Tangerines in December, this fixture was never going to be a walk in the park.
Blackpool deserve great credit for the way they played this season despite changing managers at the start of the season and the fight to rid the club of the Oyston family. To have been on the edge of the play offs for most of the season when your home support if often out numbered due to supporters boycotting the club is testament to Terry McPhillips and his side. Although Blackpool had nothing riding on this game, they were never going to throw the towel in and gave the reds a fright especially in the first half.
During a frantic first half with cheers from the Ponty end celebrating a home goal up in Sunderland, people scrolling through their mobile phones for score updates and a strong wind that was in the visitors favour, Barnsley struggled to get into their rhythm. You had the feeling it would be a tough afternoon when the visitors scored but Barnsley never stopped.
Despite some poor officiating from the referee in which he was doing a very good job of winding up Daniel Stendel on the touchline and the fans in the stands. A reluctance to book Blackpool`s goalkeeper for constant time wasting virtually from the first minute did nothing to settle the home crowd.
Yet a tenacity to win the ball back, hunting in packs in midfield, Liam Linsday and Ethan Pinnock determined to keep the big forwards of Blackpool quiet, slowly but surely the reds up their tempo. When Cauley Woodrow fired Barnsley level with a great strike at the Ponty End, it was game on and a huge sigh of relief filtered around Oakwell.
Whatever was said at half time in the dressing room worked as Barnsley came out and peppered the visitors goal. With the wind now in the hosts favour, Blackpool could hardly get out of their own half only troubling Adam Davies once mid way through the second half.
Corner after corner were swung into the visitors penalty area and finally, Liam Lindsay rose to head home a great Cameron McGeehan cross. The reds were now in control and they went in search for a third goal which would have sealed the victory sooner.
Chance after chance came and went. When Kieffer Moore missed a sitter from three yards out, you did wonder whether this chance would come back to haunt Barnsley, but thankfully not so.
In the end, Barnsley managed the last fifteen minutes very well with very few scares for Adam Davies in goal. Even the three added minutes were spent mostly deep in Blackpool territory and when the final whistle went, it was job done for the reds.
During the lap of appreciation by Stendel and his team, it was clear there is a great feeling in the camp. Stendel, Woodrow and Brown were all mobbed and the last ones to leave the lap of appreciation. Stendel looked so pumped up, relieved and happy to spend time with supporters, he really is loving life in charge at Oakwell.
Whatever happens midweek with Portsmouth and Sunderland in their games in hand or next week at Bristol Rovers, this season has been a special one. With 91 points already on the board, unbeaten at Oakwell all season and a pressing style of football that is easy on the eye, this season should live long in the memory. We all just hope that Barnsley can finish the job off next Saturday and win promotion to the Championship they so richly deserve.