Barnsley match report: Deja Vu for Reds star Dale

Barnsley force a corner against Crawley Town.
Barnsley force a corner against Crawley Town.
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For Dale Jennings and Barnsley, this was the kind of déjà vu they could have done without.

The opening day of the season, a Jennings red card and a home defeat.

It happened a year ago as Wigan romped to a 4-0 victory at Oakwell, and on Saturday it happened again.

Twelve months ago Jennings was dismissed for a rash tackle on his Reds debut.

This time his afternoon ended half an hour early after he grabbed Gwion Edwards by the throat in retaliation at a tackle from the Crawley man.

If there was initial disbelief around Oakwell at referee Jeremy Simpson’s decision to show the red card, Barnsley boss Danny Wilson later conceded that the official had been given no option. Jennings apologised to his team-mates in the dressing room after the match.

A year ago that defeat to Wigan would set the tone for things to come, as David Flitcroft lost his job as manager midway through the season and the Reds ultimately slipped to relegation from the Championship.

This time Wilson thinks a surprise home loss to unfancied Crawley, thanks to Izale McLeod’s late winner, will be the exception rather than the rule as Barnsley start life back in League One.

“We’ll be fine, we’ll keep working,” he said. “It’s disappointing because you want to win your first game at home, particularly in front of a big crowd like we had on Saturday. It wasn’t to be but there’s a long way to go.

“The sending off was stupid, Dale got hold of him round the throat and the referee has no choice, it was barmy. I think you can imagine what I said to him afterwards.

“Yes, he was fouled and it was a bad foul, but you know if you lift your hands in this day and age that is the punishment you get.

“It cost us the game because at that stage I didn’t think there was anything between the teams.

“Going into the latter stages, particularly at home I felt we had a chance of getting a head of steam up and winning the game.

“But we ended up in a position where we were trying to get something out of the game.”

Perhaps Jennings was a little too fired up for the season opener, but he had looked the most likely to find the net for Barnsley.

The wide man forced a fine save from Crawley keeper Brian Jensen with a curling effort before the break, then heading narrowly wide early in the second half.

Jennings was one of only four players in the starting line-up who had been at Oakwell last season, with Adam Davies, Reece Brown, Joe Dudgeon, Conor Hourihane, Luke Berry, James Bailey and Sam Winnall all making debuts.

Further new additions Ross Turnbull and Kane Hemmings missed out through injury, while former Reading and Swansea striker Leroy Lita was not signed in time to play after putting pen to paper on Saturday morning on a one-year contract with the option for a further season.

The 29-year-old, introduced to fans before kick-off, is expected to make his debut in tomorrow’s Capital One Cup first round tie at home to Crewe Alexandra.

It was perhaps little surprise with so many changes to the team for the new season that the Reds looked disjointed at times.

John Gregory’s Crawley were determined not to make it easy for their hosts and had the better chances of the opening stages.

Davies saved from McLeod, who then headed a right-wing cross wide.

The visitors came closer still just after the half hour mark when Josh Simpson poked a low shot against the foot of the post.

Barnsley had their chances too and Jennings’ opportunities came before and after half time, when Wilson’s side were starting to get on top.

Impressive midfield debutant Hourihane was denied by Jensen, who was also on hand to keep out an effort from Winnall.

The Reds brought on another new boy, Keith Treacy, but any momentum was soon hit by Jennings’ dismissal. With nine minutes remaining, Conor Henderson swung in a corner from the right and McLeod was left completely unmarked to head Crawley’s winner from six yards.

A late chance to equalise came and went when youth team graduate Nana Boakye-Yiadom, on as a substitute for his professional debut, could not connect with Dudgeon’s left-wing centre.

“We had chances but didn’t take them, particularly at the end,” reflected Wilson.

“If that had fallen to Leroy Lita maybe he would have scored.

“I think you saw what we did need, a goal threat.

“Leroy has got a good record and he would have been fantastic for us on Saturday.

“The thing with him is if you give him a chance he’ll take it, whether he does a lot else in the game with all due respect. That’s what he’s good at, he’s a goalscorer.

“When you see games like Saturday when there’s nothing to choose between the teams, a little bit of quality might just be the difference.”