BARNSLEY 1 (McCarthy 35 OG)
CRYSTAL PALACE 0
BARNSLEY got their npower Championship season off and running with a deserved, determined and comfortable win at Oakwell. It was just a shame it was only by a single goal.
Reds boss Mark Robins again made changes to his starting eleven for the big game against Crystal Palace. Back came Andy Gray and Bobby Hassell while Liam Dickinson, Nathan Doyle and Jacob Butterfield missed out following the midweek cup exit at the hands of Rochdale. There was a shock place in the starting eleven for defender Stephen Foster, who bravely defied doctors' advice to line up for the Reds despite suffering concussion on Tuesday night and Diego Arismendi made his Oakwell debut in midfield.
The wind was playing havoc from the very first exchanges and would be a testing opponent for both sets of players. Jay McEveley almost benefitted inside three minutes as his corner from the left caught up in the swirl and crashed into the cross bar with Julian Speroni a little flat-footed. Hugo Colace was then given far too much time and space on the edge of the box three minutes later but found his path to goal blocked by Claude Davis.
McEveley picked up a soft caution on 17 minutes for a raised arm in an aerial tussle with Alan Lee. The visitors wasted the free kick.
As an attacking force, Palace offered very little. The closest the visitors got to Luke Steele's goal came on the half hour after Lee had hit the deck under Jason Shackell's challenge to earn a free kick 30 yards out. Darren Ambrose smashed his effort straight into the wall.
The Reds came closest to a clear chance seconds later when Hassell's fine pass split the Palace defence wide open to put Colace in the clear but ball skipped away and through to Speroni.
The opening goal finally came on 35 minutes and it was crafted by the first real moments of quality in the game. Firstly Arismendi picked out a wonderful first time pass to send McEveley away down the left hand side and the full back made the opportunity count with an outstanding low cross that gave Patrick McCarthy no option but to turn the ball into his own net.
It was almost two on 38 minutes as Goran Lovre did well to send Adam Hammill away and into the area but the winger was denied a goal by McCarthy's fine block. Palace were all over the place. Lovre was inches away from a second as the visitors defence opened wide again on 40 minutes but his rasping drive flew wide of the top corner.
Gray almost got in again on 44 minutes as he rose to challenge Speroni for Hassell's long ball but the Palace keeper did very, very well to hold onto the ball under pressure.
Barnsley were denied another blatant, stonewall penalty in stoppage time as Hammill tricked his way into the area before being tripped by David Wright. It was a clear spot kick but the referee amazingly gave nothing.
Palace looked to start the second half brightly with Neil Danns replacing Kieron Cadogan in midfield. The visitors finally had a sight of goal on 48 minutes as McCarthy met Owen Garvan's corner but his header flew high over the bar.
The Reds cut through Palace easily again just two minutes later as Lovre and Colace combined to send McEveley clear on goal but the full back was denied a goal by Speroni's fine save.
Neil Swarbrick, who was proving to be an over officious referee, gifted the visitors a great chance on 52 minutes as he harshly penalised Shackell for a foul on Wilfried Zaha. Lee headed over the bar from Garvan's centre.
Barnsley were still on top and Arismendi tested his shooting boots seconds later with a decent strike from 35 yards but his effort flew well wide of the target. Palace were getting closer and Lee flashed a header just wide of the target on 55 minutes as he rose against Foster to meet Danns' cross.
At the other end Foster was desperately unlucky on 57 minutes as he nodded McEveley's corner back into the danger area but the visitors were able to scramble it clear. Palace were rocking again when Trippier lashed the loose clearance back in but it dipped just wide of the post. It was a fine strike by the Manchester City loanee.
Referee Swarbrick was in danger of losing it as the second half progressed. At least the official was consistently frustrating for both teams.
Swarbrick made the headlines for all the wrong reasons on 65 minutes as Colace clipped the ball into the six yard box only for Davis to blatantly bring it down with his arm. It was a clear, clear penalty but the Lancashire official waved away the Reds' protests, much to the obvious annoyance of the Barnsley bench.
Arismendi's outstanding Barnsley debut was over on 68 minutes as his lack of time on the pitch finally caught up with the impressive Uruguayan international. He was replaced by Doyle.
The Reds snuffed out whatever Palace could muster in the final third as the home defence held firm. Ambrose showed the Eagles' growing frustration on 74 minutes as he lashed one well wide of the target from distance as Barnsley firmly slammed the door shut.
It could have been even better for the Reds on 76 minutes as Lovre pounced onto a loose clearance in the area but could not control his shot and the ball fizzed wide of the mark.
The referee finally showed some consistency on 79 minutes when Davis clattered into Lovre with his arm raised. Having booked McEveley for the same thing in the first half, it was only right that Davis picked up a yellow card.
Steele, who had precisely nothing to do for 83 minutes, came to Barnsley's rescue though as Danns pounced on Foster's poor back pass. The Reds keeper got everything right with a fantastic diving save to deny the midfielder a run on goal.
Wright picked up a caution seconds later for dissent before Hassell was shown a yellow for a foul a on 84 minutes. Ambrose's free kick was decent but was never going to trouble Steele's goal.
The Reds just could not find a second goal to make it a very comfortable afternoon at Oakwell. Hammill almost provided it on 88 minutes with a deep corner that Shackell nodded goalward only for the ball to be crowded out of the net.
Again the official had the better of the Reds deep in stoppage time when Zaha ran into the back of Jacob Butterfield on the edge of the box. The referee awarded a very hard free kick and booked Foster for contesting the decision but Ambrose was unable to make the chance count as he blasted his effort into the wall.
It was Lovre who put his head on the line for the Reds to block Ambrose's shot and the midfielder took the full force of the ball. It ended his game early as Lovre left the field motionless on a stretcher after seven minutes of treatment. It was a sickening end to what had been a fine afternoon for Barnsley.
BARNSLEY: Steele, Hassell, Foster, Shackell, McEveley, Hammill, Colace (Butterfield 80), Arismendi (Doyle 68), Trippier (Devaney 76), Lovre, Gray.
Subs: Preece, Potter, Devaney, Neumann.
CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni, Clyne, Wright, Davis, McCarthy, Ambrose, Lee, Garvan, Dorman (Djilali 81), Cadogan (Danns 45), Zaha.
Subs: Barrett, Andrew, Price, Bennett, Pinney.
Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)
Paul Davison (Cleveland) and Keith Lawson (South Humberside)
Jonathan Hunt (County Durham)
Attendance - 11, 353
House Of Fraser Man Of The Match - Kieran Tripper
Match Report By Rob Knowles.
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