Walsall 0 Barnsley 1: ‘Smash and grab’ Reds put pressure on promotion rivals
Daniel Stendel knows Barnsley need to win ugly during the promotion run-in.
The Tykes did just that in the dramatic 1-0 victory at Walsall on Saturday, extending their unbeaten League One run to 19 games as they claimed a seventh consecutive clean sheet.
The Reds massively rode their luck against a Walsall side who were dangerous on the counter-attack.
Goalkeeper Jack Walton, deputising for skipper Adam Davies, produced two fine second half saves while defender Ben Williams made a brilliant goal-line clearance to keep Barnsley on level terms.
And that allowed them to complete a smash-and-grab at the death as Jacob Brown, anonymous for much of the game, stabbed home at the second attempt after Alex Mowatt showed excellent composure to set him up.
The goal sparked wild scenes from the visiting players, fans and bench.
Stendel said: “We cannot be satisfied with the performance but we can be happy with the result. It is an important victory. It is what we need at this time of the season.
“We did not play our best game but we have togetherness which helps us to win these close games.
“Sometimes when you are the top of the table, you have more luck than the teams at the bottom – and that was the case today. We were lucky winners.”
With Sunderland inactive this weekend, Barnsley knew they could take full advantage in the race for automatic promotion.
And despite turning in a below-par performance, Brown's goal moved them five points above the third-placed Black Cats.
Sunderland, who are also not in action this weekend due to the Checkatrade Trophy final, do have two games in hand, though.
Stendel added: “We knew before the game we could increase the gap over Sunderland and this was a problem, we thought we could win this game and forgot that it's going to be a hard fight.
“We have seven games left. Nothing is decided at the moment. Sunderland have two games in hand. But we are in good shape.
“Sunderland have a lot of games in April. We have to win our games, then we can look at what they do.”
Walsall boss Dean Keates said: “We created chances but that probably shows you where we are at the moment.
“A little bit of naivety, a little bit of not being ruthless enough when we’ve had the opportunities.
“If we had won 2-0 or 3-0 I don’t think anybody could have moaned at the score.”