Altrincham 1 Barnsley 0: Cup exit against minnows follows seven league defeats but Reds boss declares - I’m still the man

Drenched and dejected: Barnsley manager Lee Johnson after the FA Cup defeat at Altrinham. Photo: Keith Turner
Drenched and dejected: Barnsley manager Lee Johnson after the FA Cup defeat at Altrinham. Photo: Keith Turner
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Lee Johnson emerged from a stoney-faced post-match meeting with Barnsley chairman Maurice Watkins and chief executive Ben Mansford to once again insist he is the right man for the manager’s job.

With the dismal Reds already on a run of seven straight league defeats - the worst since 1959 - they then went and lost 1-0 in the FA Cup first round to National League strugglers Altrincham - a side who were a whopping 45 places below them in the pyramid ahead of kick-off.

Marc Roberts heads clear for Barnsley

Marc Roberts heads clear for Barnsley

These are incredibly tough times for Johnson, and this awful defeat by non-league opposition would have been one too many for some clubs, but the former Oldham boss still stands defiant despite the majority of Reds fans now seemingly wanting him out of Oakwell.

Johnson said: “Football is football and you never know what’s round the corner, but I still believe I’m the man. I can only apologise to the fans.

“I understand their frustrations and I’m sure they think I’m useless right now, but I’m not.

“I don’t think sacking me is the right answer. You’ve only got to look at previous managers and what they’ve gone on and done when they’ve left.

“They’re good managers, and I’m a good manager. I believe in myself and I will turn this around, if I’m given the opportunity.”

“I’m angry at the situation because I have to concede that Altrincham deserved to win. I’ve been a giant-killer during my playing days at Yeovil so I know how hard people work.

“There is a soft underbelly at the club at the moment, though, so we need to shake it up somehow.

“If I am still here, I’ll be the one to shake things up.”

A year earlier the Reds had thumped promotion-bound Burton 5-0 in the opening stage of the cup, and Johnson was certainly in need of a similar outcome on Saturday.

Altrincham had not won in their previous five league fixtures, and ahead of this test Johnson made a couple of changes to his starting line-up following the 4-3 defeat at Coventry last time out.

Swindon loanee front-man Michael Smith was ineligible, so the fit-again Marley Watkins was handed a return, while youngster George Maris was also given a rare chance to shine at Moss Lane.

Southampton loanee Lloyd Isgrove had to be content with a place on the bench, alongside the welcome sight of the presumably now fit-again Conor Hourihane.

The Reds could probably have done with Hourihane being on the field in what turned out to be a laboured performance in a goalless first half.

Sam Winnall went close early on, before Adam Davies saved the Reds at the other end when he produced a superb diving stop to keep out a piledriver from Altrincham midfielder Jake Moult.

Moultwas close again minutes later when he met a neat cross from James Lawrie before side-footing agonisingly inches over the crossbar.

The Reds bossed the final spell leading up to the break.

Winnall forced ‘keeper Deasy into a smart near-post save, while Josh Scowen ought to have done better when lashing a shot wide from just outside the box.

The goal that killed the Reds’ cup hopes came exactly 60 seconds into the second period.

And, ironically, it was the player who has arguably been the best of a bad bunch so far this term who was at fault.

Manchester United loanee Ben Pearson, so impressive so often despite the recent tribulations, dithered in the midfield and was robbed by Ryan Crowther, who charged at the heart of the defence before firing in a shot which was parried by Davies.

The ball fell invitingly for Damian Reeves, and the Doncaster-born hot-shot slammed home the rebound to sink his fellow Yorkshiremen.

There was still plenty of time for the Reds to try and find a way back into contention, but they struggled to do that in difficult conditions and against a part-time outfit who defended like Trojans.

Isgrove flashed an effort wide from 12 yards, while fellow substitute Wilkinson scooped a shot into the grateful grasp of Deasy despite being even closer in.

The closest chance came with 15 minutes to go when third sub Hourihane curled in a superbly-struck free-kick which clipped the topside of the crossbar before going behind.

The final whistle was followed by the customary pitch invasion by overjoyed Altrincham fans, with Johnson later adding: “We didn’t have enough. It’s been no secret that we have been poor recently, and some of the players need to now look very deeply at how we’re going to turn this form around.

“More players need to be putting their bodies on the line. Too many are taking opportunities to go under at the moment.

“I understand the fans’ frustrations and I’m more frustrated than anyone. It is unacceptable what went on here.

“Maurice Watkins and Ben Mansford know things have gone wrong, but they are being very supportive.”

ALTRINCHAM (4-4-1-1): Deasy 7; Sinnott 6, Havern 7 (Heathcote 64, 6), Leather 6, Griffin 5; Moult 8, Lawrie 7, Richman 6, O’Keefe 7; Crowther 8 (Clee 76, 6), Reeves 8 (Rankine 87, 6). Subs not used: Bowerman, Swift, Williams, Stouppis.

BOOKED: Griffin (44), Moult (66).

GOAL: Reeves (47)

BARNSLEY (3-5-1-1): Davies 7; Roberts 4 (Isgrove 53, 6), Mawson 5, Nyatanga 5; Wabara 5, Scowen 5 (Hourihane 53, 6), Pearson 4, Maris 4 (Wilkinson 53, 4); G Smith 6; Watkins 5; Winnall 7. Subs not used: Townsend, Bree, Jackson, White.

BOOKED: Watkins (86).

REF: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear).