Barnsley stepped up their pre-season preparations with a battling win away at Kilmarnock tonight as on-loan striker Conor Wilkinson bagged the only goal.
New frontman Marley Watkins was back in action having missed Saturday’s seven-goal thriller against Mansfield, and he led the line well with a lively start.
Watkins had three half-chances in the opening half hour, the best of which came courtesy of an excellent ball over the top from Ben Pearson, but the former Inverness man shot straight at Kilmarnock keeper Craig Samson.
The hosts’ best chance of the half came three minutes before the break, with Adam Davies forced to make a good save from Josh Magennis before the ball was scrambled clear.
Loanee Wilkinson came out firing in the second period, winning a free-kick on the edge of the box and stepping up himself to strike it narrowly over the bar.
Four minutes later, the big man was on target, heading in George Smith’s excellent delivery.
Smith put in a superb shift down the left, and caused the home side plenty of problems with his left foot full of quality crosses.
Pearson was pulling the strings in the centre of the park, slotting an exquisite ball through for Watkins, who forced the save of the evening from Samson when clean through on goal.
Kris Boyd came close to getting Kilmarnock back into the contest, with Davies stretching away to his left to keep out a testing effort.
Barnsley were forced to withstand late pressure from the hosts, with a crucial headed clearance by Marc Roberts the highlight of a solid defensive display.
The Reds did enough at both ends to overcome a resilient opponent, and are back in action at home to Championship side Middlesbrough on Wednesday July 29.
*Kilmarnock: Samson, Smith (Barber 80), Hamill (O’Hara 75), Findlay, McKenzie (Carrick 66), Robinson, Boyd, Higginbotham, Westlake, Ashcroft, Magennis (Kiltie 66). Subs not used: Macdonald, McCulloch, Hodge.
*Barnsley: Davies, Bree, Roberts, Nyatanga, Smith (Templeton 80), Pearson, Rothwell (Maris 53), Scowen, Phenix (Mawson 53), Wilkinson, Watkins. Subs not used: Dibble, Johnson, Heckingbottom.