BARNSLEY 2 (Doyle 4, Lovre 57)
COVENTRY CITY 1 (Eastwood 35)
Monday January 3, 2011, KO 3.00pm
GORAN Lovre was the Reds' match winner as his second half goal settled a scrappy and very hard fought game at Oakwell.
Despite being justifiably aggrieved following Nottingham Forest's controversial route back into Saturday's game at the City Ground, the Reds were high on confidence heading into the opening home match of 2011 following a blistering performance on New Year's Day. There were more reasons to be optimistic ahead of kick off with the news that Garry O'Connor was available after the striker completed his move to Oakwell. O'Connor came straight back into the starting eleven at the expense of Andy Gray, who dropped to the bench.
It wasn't going to be easy against a Coventry City side who have been flying high in the first half of the season. They were also the division's most physical and direct side, who would pose a lot of problems in the final third with their no-nonsense brand of football. Barnsley would have to withstand a physical battering at Oakwell.
The Reds grabbed a sensational goal inside the first five minutes. Remarkably it came from the boot of Doyle, who took on a ball dropping 30 yards out and lashed an unstoppable, dipping volley past Keiren Westwood and into the top corner. It was a stunner from the midfielder.
Coventry were forced into a change on eleven minutes as James McPake limped out of the action. He was replaced by Martin Crainey. Luke Steele had to be brave to deny Clive Platt in the air on 13 minutes after Stephen Foster's clearance had cannoned off Freddy Eastwood but a flag denied the striker a sight of goal.
A quick free kick by Adam Hammill caught Coventry fast asleep on 14 minutes as Matt Hill raced away down the left flank but his cross sailed over the bar. A whistle happy referee meant a stop-start opening to the game in which neither side could really establish a foothold, although the Reds were visibly growing in confidence.
A flowing move cut Coventry to shreds on 21 minutes as Diego Arismendi sent Trippier away to cross but the chance went begging as soon as the linesman's flag was belatedly raised. Coventry offered nothing of note in attack before Richard Keogh smacked an effort well, well side of the target from distance on 22 minutes after a blatant foul on Arismendi had gone unpunished.
With the Reds looking to play neat passing football, they were up against a Coventry side set up to do the complete opposite. It almost worked for City on 26 minutes as Platt raced onto another long ball forward but was denied a sight of goal by Foster's strong defending.
There was panic in the Barnsley back line on 29 minutes as Arismendi's cataclysmic back pass but Platt through on goal and against Steele. The keeper did very well to make a good save at the feet of the Sky Blues' striker, taking a hefty whack for his troubles.
Coventry's physicality came to their rescue on 34 minutes as Foster looked to get in onto Bobby Hassell's free kick but was barged out of the way by Platt. City were level just seconds later as Platt again made his presence felt in the air to nod Aron Gunnarsson's cross down and Eastwood beat Steele to the ball to prod it in from six yards.
Eastwood lashed one wide of the mark on 38 minutes before Platt almost got Foster sent off moments later as he wrestled his way past the Reds defender before hitting the deck very, very softly. It meant a yellow card for Foster and a free kick for Coventry a couple of yards outside the area. Thankfully Gary McSheffrey could only shoot straight at Steele.
The Reds then could have had a penalty at the other end as Trippier's goalbound header was blocked by Richard Wood's arm on the line. It would have been harsh.
Coventry were given another soft free kick and the chance to shoot in stoppage time as Hill challenged Lee Carsley. This time Eastwood could only smack his effort straight into the wall.
The home side were subject to more rough treatment just moments after the restart when Doyle was smashed on half way although the foul went unpunished. Thankfully the Reds goalscorer was able to continue after treatment.
A foul by Nathan Cameron on O'Connor gave Hammill the chance to shoot on 51 minutes. Hammill beat the wall but his effort fizzed just past the post. O'Connor was in on goal on 55 minutes as he raced onto Trippier's pass but was denied by Westwood's fine save.
The Reds grabbed a second goal as Hill's looping pass beat the Coventry defence and O'Connor's header found Lovre in acres of space. The midfielder did not miss from eight yards out although he looked more than a little offside.
Gunnarsson was left prone on the turf on 59 minutes after coming off second best in an aerial challenge with Lovre. There looked to be absolutely nothing in the challenge but the Coventry midfielder needed extensive treatment before being able to continue.
More neat incisive passing by the Reds negated Coventry's robust football and ended with Hammill bringing a fine, fine save from Westwood on 63 minutes. Seconds later it was Steele's turn to shine as he did brilliantly to parry away McSheffrey's effort after Gunnarsson had broken to the byline.
Gunnarsson hit the deck again under a challenge from Lovre on 76 minutes. Steele then did well to deny Platt from the resulting free kick. Eastwood raced in on goal onto McSheffrey's pass on 81 minutes but was denied by a combination of Steele and Foster.
Trippier's fine pass sent Gray in behind Coventry on 83 minutes but the substitute could only shoot straight at Westwood under pressure from Wood. Hammill was then inches away from a third goal on 89 minutes as he broke away from Carsley's half-hearted challenge before lashing the ball over the top.
Barnsley were so close to victory but still had to endure five minutes of stoppage time. Gunnarsson broke in behind Hill and through on goal to meet McSheffrey's pass but blazed high over when he should have scored.
BARNSLEY: Steele, Hassell, Foster, Shackell, Hill, Trippier, Doyle, Arismendi, Hammill, Lovre (Gray 76), O'Connor (Butterfield 84).
Subs: Preece, O'Brien, Neumann, Colace, Bennett.
COVENTRY CITY: Westwood, Keogh, Wood, McPake, Cameron, Gunnarsson, Carsley, Doyle, McSheffrey, Platt, Eastwood.
Subs: Crainey, Ireland, Bell, Baker, Jutkiewicz, O'Donovan, Thomas.
Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)
Simon Clayton (County Durham) and Ian Dudley (Nottinghamshire)
Colin Harwood (Manchester)
Away Attendance: 967
House Of Fraser Man Of The Match: Kieran Trippier
Match Report by Rob Knowles.
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