Barnsley 0 Wolves 0: True grit as Reds hold runaway leaders

Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom was unsurprisingly pleased after his side matched runaway Championship leaders Wolves stride for stride at Oakwell.

Monday, 15th January 2018, 12:44 am
Barnsley's Gary Gardner challenges Wolves' Matt Doherty. Photo Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The Reds gave a terrific account of themselves against Nuno Espirito Santo’s Premier League-bound outfit, securing a potentially precious point from a gritty goalless draw.

Heckingbottom said: “You have to earn everything against Wolves, and we’re a team that if we are to compete - and I keep telling the players this - then everybody has got to compete and perform.

“Everyone has got to be organised and everyone has got to give everything for the cause.

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“We can’t afford to have 13 million pound players on the bench and 16 million pound Champions League players in the ranks - that’s never going to happen.

“This was a big step up for lots of our players, but that doesn’t mean we can’t beat these teams.

“We have to get everything right to beat a team like Wolves, and that’s for the full 90 minutes.

“We gave everything against Wolves, we were disciplined, and overall I was pleased with the performance.”

Wolves did go closest to breaking the deadlock when Diogo Jota thumped the crossbar in the second half.

However, the Reds created a handful of very presentable chances during what was a hugely entertaining goalless draw.

Adam Hammill and Stevie Mallan went closest for the hosts, both denied by smart saves from experienced Wolves ‘keeper John Ruddy.

Sub George Moncur missed a great chance to nick an unlikely late victory when his snapshot fizzed inches past the post.

New signing and ex-Rotherham front-man Kieffer Moore was given a run-out as a second-half substitute, and impressed following his midweek move from Ipswich Town.

Reds’ wide-man Lloyd Isgrove was replaced at half-time after suffering a dead leg, but should be fully fit again in time for Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa.

Wolves remain 10 points clear of second-placed Derby County, with 19 games remaining.

The Reds are now three points clear of the drop zone.

Boss praises Gardner

Paul Heckingbottom reserved special praise for Barnsley midfielder Gary Gardner, who dug in and worked hard in breaking down much of Wolves’ undoubted enterprise.

Solihull-born Gardner (25) joined the Reds on loan from Aston Villa on August 31 last year, and is slowly getting back to his best after being hampered by a number of niggling injuries.

“Gards has done well, his fitness has got better and better,” said the Barnsley boss after Gardner shone in the engine room against Wolves.

“He had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.

“We were limited in the players we had available, but Gards was really good in that deeper midfield role.

“There was a lot of pressure on him without the ball, but he performed well, as did the rest of the team.”

Gardner won’t be eligible to play against his parent club at Villa Park on Saturday.

Consistency is watchword

After such an encouraging team performance in going toe-to-toe with the runaway Championship leaders, surely the Reds need to work on building up some much-needed consistency now.

Paul Heckingbottom’s side have shown in their last two league games that they are more than capable of competing - a victory at Sunderland followed by the Wolves draw.

However, sandwiched in between was an FA Cup humbling at Millwall.

That precious victory at the Stadium of Light ended a winless streak of 10 games, so it’s clear that more consistency is required if Barnsley aren’t to get sucked right into a relegation scrap.

In-form trio Aston Villa, Fulham and QPR are next on the Reds’ fixture schedule, so let’s just see if this mini-Championship revival can be maintained, hopefully supplemented by one or two new arrivals into the squad before deadline day.