Shrewsbury 0 Barnsley 3: Match analysis - Rampant Reds keep first clean sheet in 21 matches
Boss Lee Johnson rejoiced after revitalised Barnsley romped to victory at Shrewsbury, with in-form hit-man Sam Winnall bagging another couple on a terrific afternoon.
Winnall registered his 11th and 12th goals of the season as the Reds were rarely troubled, with Johnson particularly delighted by a first clean sheet since September - 21 games ago - thanks to Adam Davies’s heroic first-half penalty save.
Johnson beamed: “Hallelujah! You could say we’ve been lucky to come away with a clean sheet, but sometimes lately we’ve been unlucky not to keep one.
“We created a lot of chances and we stopped Shrewsbury having that many.
“It was great to get a clean sheet, but much more important was the three points.
“We’ve just got to keep working hard at it now and keep going.
“When we were having it really tough earlier in the season we had staff here who kept working hard and kept going.
“Everyone just kept turning up every day with that enthusiasm you need, and now it’s turned around I’m so pleased for everyone. We are a different side now. We set up very well.
“We’ve had the core of this group for a while, we’ve kept the same formation and been able to get all those little things that you need to add up in a game.
“I feel we’ve now got the organisation we need to maintain this consistency. We were brilliant in the first 25 minute.
“The game-plan went well and those were two more great finishes from Sam Winnall. This was a very big win for us.”
Ahead of the clash at a bitterly cold Greenhous Meadow ohnson had made three alterations to his starting line-up.
Reece Wabara had left for Wigan during the week, but his right-back spot proved a straight swap with James Bree stepping back into the fold.
Midfielder Josh Brownhill, a midweek loan capture from Preston, stepped in for his debut, and Marley Watkins returned after his hamstring injury.
Ryan Williams and Brad Abbott could considered themselves unfortunate to be dropped to the bench.
Shrews’ ex-Reds caretaker boss Mickey Mellon made one change to his starting 11 after the Shrews has shocked Championship club Cardiff Citty in the FA Cup last week with injured wide-man Mat Sadler replaced by Junior Brown.
It proved to be a dream opening 45 minutes for Barnsley, who deservedly led 2-0 at half time whistle.
Winnall had already seen an effort hacked off the line by Brown before he broke the deadlock route-one syle in the 15th minute, latching on to a long clearance from ‘keeper Davies before smashing home clinically from just inside the penalty area.
Six minutes later the Reds’ lead was doubled, courtesy of Winnall again. He took advantage of a hesitant Shrews’ back four as he ran at the heart of the home defence before drilling home confidently to register his 12th goal of the season.
The returning Watkins saw a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside shortly after.
The hosts had barely been in contention, but they were handed a potential lifeline three minutes before half-time when youngster Bree dragged Andy Mangan back in the box, and referee Mr Gibbs pointed straight to the spot.
However, a super first period culminated with Davies diving low brilliantly to keep out Mangan’s rather disappointing spot-kick.
There was a slower start to the second period, though the Reds continued to dominate.
Hourihane curled a free-kick narrowly over the top just before the hour mark, before the buzzing Winnall lashed in a shot which nestled in the side-netting when many of the travelling army thought he had sealed his hat-trick.
The Reds extended their lead in the 72nd minute when hesitant defending of a Hourihane corner-kick proved costly for Shrewsbury. As the ball floated into the box and wasn’t cleared, centre-back Alfie Mawson pounced to ram home his fifth goal of the campaign in emphatic style.
Shrews’ boss Mellon groaned “We never got going. Everything we did at Cardiff we didn’t do in this game.”
SHREWSBURY (3-5-2): Halstead 5; Gerrard 7, Whitbread 6, Knight-Percival 5; Grimmer 7, Clark 5 (Wallace 46, 5), Black 4 (Wellens 46, 5), Cole 5, Brown 7; Vernon 4 (Vassell 46, 6), Mangan 5. Subs not used: Leutwiler, Whalley, Akpa-Akpro, Grandison.
BOOKED: Black (44), Brown (51), Whitbread (59), Wellens (72).
BARNSLEY (4-4-1-1): Davies 7; Bree 7 (Roberts 90, 6), Mawson 8, Long 7, A White 8; Isgrove 8 (Fletcher 73, 6), Hourihane 7, Brownhill 8, Hammill 7; Watkins 7 (R Williams 83, 6); Winnall 9. Subs not used: Townsend, Abbott, H White, G Williams.
GOALS: Winnall 15, 21, Mawson 71
BOOKED: Watkins (25), Long (66).
REF: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands).