Barnsley 2 Norwich 1: Match verdicts

Barnsley's man of the match Marc Roberts.
 
Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
Barnsley's man of the match Marc Roberts. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Delighted Paul Heckingbottom saluted the grit and determination of his Barnsley team in this great performance.

The Reds held off a strong second-half fightback to see off a Norwich City team packed with Premier League experience.

They hadn’t won at Oakwell since August and though generally the season has been progressing well since promotion from League One at Wembley in May, they needed to get back to winning ways at home.

On Saturday they did just that, thanks to superb first-half strikes from Tom Bradshaw and Conor Hourihane, as they rose to within three points of the play-off positions.

A second straight victory will see the Reds face the Owls tomorrow in great heart. Heckingbottom said: “Teamwork and spirit has been a big part of our game since I arrived, and if you’ve got that commitment, you’ve always got a chance.

“We work hard in getting players in the right positions, but the boys did really well in getting in the blocks and stuff against Norwich, especially when they got in or around our box.

“It was great to send the fans home happy with a win, but I’m also sure they’ll be like me in just being happy as and when the points come.”

Tom Bradshaw opened the scoring, clinically dispatching James Bree’s smart cross from close range.

Conor Hourihane then doubled the Reds’ lead just before half-time as he fired into the top corner from 20 yards.

Nelson Oliveira reduced Norwich’s arrears shortly after the interval, but the Reds defended brilliantly as they went on to secure a deserved first victory against the stunned Canaries since August, 2000.

WATCH OUT WEDNESDAY

Resurgent Barnsley will head for Hillsborough full of confidence tomorrow night, so Wednesday had better watch out.

Overall, it’s been a terrific return to the Championship for the Reds under Paul Heckingbottom this term.

There was a great start to the season, followed by a blip when the Reds won just once in 11 games, but now the team has definitely clicked back into gear with Saturday’s superb win against Norwich following up a 3-0 success at Birmingham City.

Confidence is a huge factor in football, and the Barnsley squad is full of it again as Saturday saw them see off a Norwich team full of Premier League experience.

Some of the Reds’ younger players are growing with each Championship game they play, and many wouldn’t be too surprised if the visitors went on to secure a positive result amidst the white-hot Hillsborough atmosphere tomorrow.

A cracking derby clash is in prospect.

A KEANE EYE ON HOURIHANE

A superb first goal in 11 games couldn’t have been timed better for Reds skipper Conor Hourihane on Saturday.

His goal drought was ended thanks to a splendidly-struck goal shortly before half-time at Oakwell as Norwich were to be sent spiralling to defeat at Oakwell, and another overall impressive personal performance was played out in front of Republic of Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane - again.

It’s not the first time Keane has been to check out Hourihane’s undoubted progress in the Championship, and surely a call-up to the national squad is now not too far away for the hugely talented and sought-after 25-year-old midfielder.

Of course the talk continues about loftier clubs seemingly preparing bids for Hourihane in January, but for now the man himself is just getting on with the job of helping to fire the Reds back into a lofty position in the Championship.

These are heady days for Hourihane, and of course Reds fans will be hoping he does stick around for a few more years yet.