Barnsley 2 Coventry 0: Reds march from bottom to verge of play offs in four months
Barnsley are right in the thick of the race for the top six after they superbly saw off fellow play-off contenders Coventry at Oakwell.
The Reds - thanks to a 10th win in their last 12 games - moved level on points with the Sky Blues following a quite incredible turnaround in recent fortunes.
Back in November Barnsley were bottom of League One while the Sky Blues were top - how times have changed in just three short months.
Reds’ caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom stuck with the starting XI from the impressive comeback win at Crewe. Even the substitutes remained the same.
Coventry boss Tony Mowbray made two alterations in the wake of Saturday’s disappointing home reverse against Fleetwood Town.
Ex-Red Marcus Tudgay was in while former England star Joe Cole was rested and James Maddison dropped to the bench.
Despite the driving rain in the opening exchanges, the Reds opened brightly, going close after only two minutes.
Ashley Fletcher met a super George Williams cross, but watched in almost disbelief as his glancing header was brilliantly tipped over by Coventry’s former Arsenal ‘keeper Reice Charles-Cook.
There was no denying the Reds after 10 minutes, however.Marc Roberts rose perfectly to meet Conor Hourihane’s corner-kick and headed home his first Barnsley goal, powerfully in off the underside of the bar.
The visitors responded swiftly with Adam Armstrong forcing Adam Davies into a competent save, but back came the hosts and Hourihane almost doubled their lead.
The in-form schemer drilled in a super drive from 20 yards which Charles-Cook dived down low to beat away.
As the Reds kept their foot on the gas, Josh Brownhill was the next to go close, seeing another well-struck shot saved by Charles-Cook.
Again the Reds came close to doubling their advantage, with Sam Winnall not quite controlling sufficiently as he charged in to meet a Hourihane through-ball.
Tudgay came close to an equaliser as the Sky Blues were striving desperately for a way back into contention, but it was Barnsley who remained in charge.
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There were screams for a penalty when Marley Watkins looked to have been bundled, while George Williams drove inches wide seconds before the interval.
The Reds opened the second period impressively, now with Josh Scowen and recent capture Harry Chapman on in place of Winnall - who took a knock to his ankle early in the game - and Lloyd Isgrove.
And it was Chapman who almost grabbed his maiden Reds goal just before the hour. His brilliant curling effort was tipped just over the top by Charles-Cook.
The Sky Blues’ keeper was then the villain on the hour as the Reds doubled their lead.
Totally missing a cross from Hourihane, Charles-Cook’s error let in Ashley Fletcher at the far post and he made no mistake from close range. The Reds almost made it 3-0 minutes later when Chapman fired inches wide following a breath-taking individual run.
That missed chance didn’t matter a jot, though, as brilliant Barnsley moved to within a whisker of those cherished play-off places.
Barnsley: Davies, Bree (Smith, 73), Roberts, Mawson, G Williams, Isgrove (Chapman, 46), Hourihane, Brownhill, Watkins, Fletcher, Winnall (Scowen, 46). Subs not used: Townsend, Nyatanga, Khan, Tuton.
Yellow cards: Brownhill (70), Fletcher (73).
Coventry: Charles-Cook, Ricketts, Stephens, Cargill, Stokes, Vincelot (Rose, 53), Fleck, Murphy, Tudgay (Henderson, 62), Hunt (Maddison, 61), Armstrong. Subs not used: Addai, Ramage, Lorentzson, Lameiras.
Yellow cards: Ricketts (58).
Referee: Ross Joyce (Cleveland).