GUTSY Barnsley shook off Saturday’s FA Cup calamity at Manchester City by claiming three precious Championship points with a fine win over promotion-chasing Brighton.
nd the Reds victory, which moved them off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation zone altogether, was secured thanks to late heroics from on-song keeper Luke Steele.
The former Manchester United shot-stopper had the Oakwell faithful jumping for joy with seven minutes to go as he dramatically saved Leonardo Ulloa’s well-struck penalty kick after David Perkins had felled the on-rushing Inigo Calderon.
Reds boss David Flitcroft made a handful of changes following the club’s FA Cup humbling at Manchester City.
In came Jim O’Brien, Jacob Mellis and Rory Delap across a five-man midfield. Sheffield Wednesday loan striker Chris O’Grady was also handed a place at the sharp end of the team, alongside Jason Scotland, who was called upon to make his first start since joining the Reds.
Stephen Foster was out altogether, while Tomasz Cywka, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Chris Dagnall and Marlon Harewood were all dropped to the substitute’s bench.
There were rows and rows of empty seats inside Oakwell as kick-off approached, though the Seagulls had done well to travel in their hundreds given the dreadful weather in the south during the previous 24 hours.
So with points now so desperately needed by Flitcroft’s men, the night almost got off to a disastrous start when Gus Poyet’s team fluffed a glaring opportunity after barely three minutes. The Reds defence was still sleeping when Andrea Orlandi crossed in from the left and after only a partial clearance, the ball fell to the unmarked Will Buckley who side-footed wide from just 12 yards.
Credit the Reds though. They swiftly rallied and Scotland fizzed a shot narrowly wide, before the same player bagged an opportunist opener in the 15th minute.
O’Grady set the goal up, squaring a pass to Scotland who skipped neatly past Matthew Upson before slotting his fifth Reds goal easily past keeper Tomasz Kuszczak from eight yards.
Buckley should have scored again 10 minutes later, as this time he screwed a shot wide after latching on to Adam El-Abd’s smart through-ball,
Scotland responded as he saw an angled effort drift wide of the far post, but the first half ended tamely with the Reds at least preserving their slender lead.
Neither manager made a change at the interval, and once the game resumed it was the hosts who were the more purposeful.
O’Brien produced a great cross for O’Grady who couldn’t quite stretch enough to make contact with the ball, while midfield maestro Perkins curled in a super shot which Kuszczak only saved at the second attempt.
Poyet’s men are in need of points as they look to keep their play-off tilt on track though, and both David Lopez and Orlandi forced Steele into agile stops.
Steele couldn’t be faulted for Brighton’s leveller on the hour mark.
It had been on the cards following ten minutes of increasing pressure, and that eventually paid off as skipper Calderon pinged in a cross for Argentine Ulloa who headed clinically home.
The Reds rapidly hit back though, as they re-took the lead just four minutes later.
El-Abd clumsily bundled Dagnall over in the box, and just minutes after coming on to replace Scotland, the Reds’ substitute coolly slotted home from the spot to chalk up his 10th goal of an impressive season.
After that the Seagulls pressed hard for a second equaliser and sub Kazenga Lualua twice crashed in beautifully-struck shots from distance, but thankfully both efforts flew the wrong side of the post, leaving Steele to end the night as the hero of the hour.
*Barnsley: Steele 8, Wiseman 7, Cranie 6, Kennedy 7, O’Brien 5 (Cywka 74, 6), Etuhu 7, Perkins 8, Mellis 7, Delap 6 (Hassell 81, 5), Scotland 6 (Dagnall 58, 7), O’Grady 6.
Subs not used: Lidakevicius, Tunnicliffe, Dawson, Harewood.
*Brighton: Kuszczak 7, Bruno 5 (Crofts 61, 6), Hammond 6 (Barker 81, 6), Orlandi 8, El-Abd 6, Calderon 7, Upson 5, Lopez 5 (Lualua 57, 7), Bridcutt 7, Ulloa 7, Buckley 6. Subs not used: Ankergren, Greer, Dicker, Forster-Caskey.
*Referee: Mark Heywood [Cheshire].