I’m on the train heading north for tonight’s match and it’ll be my first floodlit game since I can’t remember when. It was great news about Power yesterday and although I thought from what I could see immediately after Saturday’s game that he deserved a red, I’m very glad to have been proved wrong. It makes you wonder if he’s a marked man. The only time I’ve seen Barnsley was when they comprehensively beat us away last season and Khazri was cursed rotten as he left the field. That all seems a long time ago now and the mentality of our side is so much better these days. Barnsley are two points behind us but have lost three to our one. I don’t have any team news at this early hour but I didn’t hear about any injuries after the Walsall match. You’ve got to fancy Luton to beat Bradford tonight while Portsmouth should take care of Walsall at home. Peterborough are at home to Wimbledon in what seems like a cast-iron win but I suspect the Wombles might get something there. A win tonight would be very significant and would put some clear water between us and Barnsley but I’m less confident about us at home then I am away. If we score first, then I think we’ll win it but it’s going to be tough. Match prediction: a battling 2-1 win for us.
I got the team news while slurping a Guinness in Fitzie’s and the only apparent change was Maguire starting instead of Oviedo. When I got to my seat in the East Stand five minutes before kick-off I was dazzled by the floodlights and it felt good. There were plenty of Barnsley fans present and they were in good voice.
For the opening fifteen minutes Barnsley looked the more polished side and moved the ball around quickly and accurately while at times we were giving them an alarming amount of space near our penalty-area. Our only real effort was a Maja header that went just wide after James put in a good cross from the left. Cesare had their first effort on target with a low shot but McLaughlin grabbed it at the second attempt. Anyway, we promptly went up the other end where McGeady was brought down and he put the resultant penalty into the bottom left corner and we were ahead. Within a minute or two we had increased our lead and it was Maja who received a great ball down the middle before scoring one of his now trademark goals i.e. swivelling and then shooting into the bottom corner. We could’ve made it three not long afterwards but Maja’s header went wide again. Barnsley weren’t taking things lying down and they won three corners but failed to capitalize on them. We made it 3-0 when Gooch shot home after McGeady fed him from the left. It looked like we were home and dry but unfortunately the game was far from over. We were passing it back to McLaughlin far too much instead of pushing up and going for a fourth and we paid the price for this when Moore pulled a goal back shortly before the break. McLaughlin had done well to stop a first shot but when this wasn’t cleared Moore was there to smash it home. Woodrow hit the post in stoppage-time and at 3-1 we seemed to be hanging on. I was glad to hear the half-time whistle go.
Four minutes after the restart McGeady hit a great long distance effort that went just over the bar. We won our first corner just after that but then Barnsley won four of their own in quick succession and as I looked at the clock there was still an awful long time to go. We replaced Maja with O’Nien around the hour-mark and next up Barnsley won yet another corner and from that one Moore powered in a great header to put them just one behind with half an hour left. A lot of our passing was frankly shite and maybe the lads were knackered after playing so long with ten men on Saturday but there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth all around me. Maguire made a couple of quick breaks into their half, the first of which was correctly ruled offside but the second created a great chance though nobody was there to connect with the resultant cross. In the sixty-eighth minute a diving header from O’Nien went narrowly wide and that was at least promising. Maguire should’ve done better when he closed in on Davies in goal but instead of chipping him he shot straight at him and the chance was lost. Meanwhile at the other end Barnsley hadn’t created any dangerous chances since their second goal and we were winning a lot of headers in the centre of our half so that was pleasing at any rate if our own attacks weren’t. There was clearly going to be about five minutes of stoppage-time because of three injuries and I didn’t fancy going into that with just a one-goal lead but O’Nien put us all out of our misery six minutes from time after a great flowing move started with a back-heel from Maguire near the right touchline. When th ball hit the net we knew that that was surely that. Sinclair and Oviedo came on for Maguire and Gooch and the stoppage-time was greeted with cheers by many, who no doubt hoped we could get a fifth. It ended 4-2, as I’d hoped it would at the break, and there was applause all round.
This was nerve-wracking for a good while when we should have cruised it but still we’re now five points clear of Barnsley and have won again without playing well for much of the game.