Barnsley: Battling Reds delight Flitcroft

Barnsley manager David Flitcroft
Barnsley manager David Flitcroft
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CHRIS Dagnall fired the resurgent Reds into the FA Cup fifth round and made it four games unbeaten for David Flitcroft’s resilient side.

The former Rochdale and Scunthorpe United hitman was a bit-part player in his first season at Oakwell, but in recent weeks he’s come to the party with the Reds battling to get their season back on track.

Three goals in his last three games has helped the cause, with a renewed optimism at the club now they’ve managed to string some much-needed results together.

And Flitcroft can rightly be proud of his team as they upset Championship promotion-chasers Tigers on their home turf.

“I’m a massive believer in maintaining standards and trying to improve on standards,” stressed Flitcroft.

“One thing I do know is that I will keep demanding standards from this group of players.

“If I don’t get it from them I’ll demand more. That’s a winning thing, you can make that into a habit.

“We’ve come to Hull and beat an incredible team. I think they’ve only been beaten four times at home this season by a Championship side. It was a battling performance even if the scoreline didn’t reflect that.”

Flitcroft made three changes to his starting line-up from his side which snatched a late draw away to Ipswich Town last Saturday.

Midfielder Stephen Dawson missed out with ankle ligament damage, which gave Kelvin Etuhu the chance to slot into a midfield five, with Flitcroft keen to use his tried and trusted wing-backs in a 3-5-2 formation.

Stephen Foster and John Stones dropped to the substitutes’ bench with Flitcroft bold in his team selection, with Bobby Hassell and Scott Wiseman recalled to the starting eleven.

Club stalwart Hassell hadn’t started a game since Boxing Day while Wiseman, the subject of harsh criticism from some Barnsley supporters during the past couple of months, was also given his chance. And both players didn’t disappoint.

Wiseman was solid in the right-wing back position if not spectacular, while Hassell impressed as a sweeper in a three-man central defensive partnership.

However, the surprise choice of the afternoon came with the inclusion of Rhys Oates, with the promising Academy youngster included in the first-team squad for the first time.

The Reds started slowly though and it was the Tigers who had the better of the first-half exchanges.

Nick Proschwitz found time and space to unleash a shot in the ninth minute, but his effort flew wide of the right upright.

Former Reds loanee Paul McShane forced Luke Steele to save four minutes later, having burst forward from defence, before Proschwitz had another good chance, only to rifle wide again.

Wiseman conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position in the 25th minute, but Steele was equal to skipper Robert Koren’s curling effort.

Seyi Olofinjana then wasted a great chance for the opener when he headed wide from Robert Brady’s inch-perfect cross.

Finally the Reds had a chance of their own when Marlon Harewood had a shot charged down six minutes before the break.

On the stroke of half-time Etuhu tried his luck from distance but saw his right-foot shot fly well over.

The Reds were quickly out of the blocks after the restart and Harewood forced Tigers keeper Eldin Jakupovic into a smart save after just 56 seconds.

Steele saved well from Brady soon after and then Harewood was denied by Jakupovic for a second time.

Substitute Jay Simpson lashed a powerful shot inches wide of the left post as the game opened up, before the Reds took the lead after a goalmouth scramble.

Dagnall and Harweood were both denied by fine saves from Jakupovic, but the keeper could do nothing as the ball fell invitingly for Dagnall to lash home from close range.

Steele thwarted Simpson with a good block, while Jakupovic denied Harewood at the other end.

But Dagnall’s goal proved enough as the Reds progressed to the fifth round for the first time in five years.

“I’ll always put a team out that can fight, battle and scrap for every millimeter of grass on that pitch,” added Flitcroft.

“I was asking a lot of players who’ve not played for a while, but to every man they’ve done a great job.

“That’s key to what we’re trying to achieve at the football club.

“Daggers has come up trumps again with the goal. It helps build his confidence. It makes him realise that he can score goals against Championship opposition.

“It’s difficult when everyone is telling you that you can’t.

“I’ve told Daggers not to listen to the talk, walk the walk and it’s actions not words. Just go out and do it - and that’s what he’s done.”