Barnsley flop at home to Walsall

Kadeem Harris gets his shirt tugged by Jason Demetriou. 'Picture Dean Atkins
Kadeem Harris gets his shirt tugged by Jason Demetriou. 'Picture Dean Atkins
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Barnsley’s woes deepened as they slipped frustratingly to a fourth straight League One defeat for the first time since they dropped out of the Championship.

This time Walsall condemned Lee Johnson’s Reds to a 2-0 loss as second half goals from debutant George Evans and former Red Milan Lalkovic proved decisive.

The Reds impressed in large periods of the first half, but the boo’s that rang out at the final whistle will not have made easy listening for Johnson, whose side faded badly in the final quarter of the game.

Despite their recent troubles, the Reds opened confidently against the high-flying Saddlers, and almost went in front after just three minutes.

The recalled Sam Winnall combined crisply with Canadian front-man Simeon Jackson - making his maiden Reds start - before drilling a shot inches past the post from 15 yards.

It didn’t take long for Walsall to click into gear, though. Under the guidance of boss Dean Smith - who recently signed a new extended contract - they look a totally different side than the one which muddled its way through last season again.

Romaine Sawyers saw a deflected shot drift just wide, while Manchester City loanee Evans ought to have done better on his debut for the visitors when he fired an effort straight at grateful Reds’ ‘keeper Nick Townsend.

An end-to-end opening quarter then saw the hosts break again, but striker Michael Smith nodded George Smith’s in-swinging cross harmlessly straight at goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray.

The run-up to half-time included a number of significant threats from the Saddlers’ leading scorer Tom Bradshaw.

He was allowed far too much time and space in the Reds’ box before thankfully firing wide, while just minutes the in-form front-man’s rocket of a shot took a deflection of defender Marc Roberts before fizzing narrowly wide.

The Reds had been under the cosh for a spell, but they did have the final word of a goalless first period.Josh Scowen neatly found Winnall in space just outside the Walsall, only for his superb drive to sting the palms of the alert MacGillivray.

Half-time sub Kadeem Harris made a good early impact after the restart. The replacement for George Smith whipped over a cross for defender Alfie Mawson, but he couldn’t direct his header.

Barnsley’s tails were up in the opening stages of the second period, and they came agonisingly close to an opener in the 55th minute when Roberts’ header was blocked on the line by the gutsy MacGillivray.

Ben Pearson - who seconds earlier picked up a fifth booking of the season and now gets a one-game ban - then acrobatically volleyed wide, but still the score remained goalless.That was until the 63rd minute when Walsall scored against the run of play. Lalkovic teed up Evans, and he bagged his debut goal in clinical style.

Lewin Nyatanga flicked a header against the crossbar as the Reds sought a swift equaliser, but they were stunned again in the 71st minute when Lalkovic smashed home from 15 yards to seal a deserved victory, the Saddlers’ first at Oakwell in 44 years.

Barnsley: Townsend, Roberts, Mawson, Nyatanga, Wabara, Scowen, Pearson, Jackson (Crowley, 62), G Smith (Harris, 46), M Smith (Wilkinson, 77), Winnall.

Subs unused: Bree, Walton, White, Digby.

Walsall: MacGillivray, Preston, Downing, Evans (Flanagan, 83), Demetriou, Chambers, Forde (Morris, 78), Lalkovic (Cook, 83), Henry, Sawyers, Bradshaw.

Subs not used: Baxendale, Bakayoko, Kinsella, Jezeph.