Reds 1 (Greening 36, Davies m/p 72)
Birmingham 2 (Davies 35, 77)
Barnsley should have put Birmingham to bed but it was a smash and grab performance from the visitors who were second best throughout the 90. Craig Davies blazed over from the spot which would have seen the Reds sit firmly in the driving seat but Barnsley’s inability to defend set-pieces cost them dear.
The Reds bossed play and dictated the tempo from the off but found themselves behind as Curtis Davies nodded home. The lead only lasted a minute when Jonathan Greening swept home but Curtis Davies made his namesake Craig pay just minutes after the Barnsley striker blazed over the bar when he thumped his second header home.
Perkins prodded through for Tudgay only for him to be thwarted by a combination of the linesman’s flag and Jacob Butland on two minutes. Moments later O’Brien charged at the City defence but his shot was well blocked by Caldwell – it was a great start from the Reds.
Birmingham’s threat was a direct one, with the giant Zigic lurking at every cross, although a few corners failed to reach the striker.
Barnsley responded with Golbourne finding Tudgay free but his header was blocked on 11 minutes and Dawson followed up on the volley but Butland held well on the greasy surface.
Tudgay went clear from a fortunate deflection but the angle was too tight and the Blues recovered to block for a corner – the Reds were bright and breezy in the December rain.
A splendid, flowing Barnsley move on 16 minutes saw Butland make a smart save from Tudgay’s header. Dawson crossed well from the byline and the Forest loanee glanced his eight-yard header across goal only for the England international to tip away.
O’Brien found himself in space 30 yards from goal but dragged his effort wide after being fed in by Hassell. There was certainly only one team in it by the 28-minute mark.
On 35 minutes Birmingham took the lead and it was Curtis Davies who headed home from four yards as he met an in-swinging corner. To say it was less than the visitors deserved would be an understatement.
But barely a minute later the Reds were level. Jonathan Greening was the scorer and it was no less than the Reds deserved for their terrific football and work rate. Golbourne crossed from the left and Dawson had two bites at the cherry before the ball fell for Tudgay, he teed up fellow Forest team-mate Greening 20 yards out and he hammered into the bottom left-hand corner with Butland simply an admirer.
Barnsley were all over Birmingham, who still had only one shot to their name by the 41st minute mark. Greening went close with a similar rebounded effort on 43 minutes following shouts for a penalty when Dagnall was clattered in the box, but he struck wide of the mark from 20 yards.
The Blues did register their second shot before the stroke of half time when Hall thumped at goal but McNulty got a solid block in.
Less than a minute into the second period the Reds should have taken the lead. Tudgay raced away down the right onto O’Brien’s pass and he almost put a ball onto a plate for Dagnall, but the striker couldn’t direct his shot on target as he stretched out his leg.
The Reds certainly carried on from where they left off as they kicked towards the Ponty end.
On 53 Chris Burke replaced Nathan Redmond out wide as Clark’s side searched for some sort of foothold in the match.
Elliott curled a free-kick wide barely two minutes before Hassell took a half-chance from Butland’s poor clearance and thumped at goal from all of 60 yards – the ‘keeper did recover and managed to just about gather the ball on 58 minutes.
The football from Hill’s troops was simply sumptuous and Stones got on the end of another fantastic move just past the hour mark. Dagnall, O’Brien and Stones worked some neat one-touch play down the right which ended up in the latter seeing his effort blocked. It was cracking football from Barnsley.
Matty Done and Craig Davies came on for David Perkins and Chris Dagnall with 22 minutes left.
The cry for ‘handball’ inside Oakwell was deafening as a Davies header thumped the hand of a Blues defender. Davies stepped up himself but hammered well over the bar.
Jack Butland pulled out a save from the highest of top drawers on 75 minutes when Done’s diving header seemed destined for the bottom corner but somehow the 19-year-old got down well to his right and then gathered at the second attempt.
Birmingham were laughing as their luck never seemed to end with Curtis Davies finding himself on the end of a deep cross and headed home with little over 13 to play.
Curtis Davies tried to curl one into the top bag but Steele tipped over the bar as the clock ticked down.
Three minutes of stoppage time was indicated but Birmingham held on. Never have the Reds controlled such a match and gained no reward.
Reds: Steele, Hassell, Golbourne, Dawson, O'Brien, Perkins, Dagnall, McNulty, Greening, Tudgay, Stones.
Subs: Alnwick, Davies, Done, Wiseman, Harewood, Cywka, Sinclair.
Birmingham: Butland, Caldwell, Davies, Mullins, Elliott, Zigic, Redmond (Burke 53), Hancox, Hall (Gomis 86), Robinson, Reilly.
Subs: Doyle, Ibanez, Morrison, Jervis, Delfouneso.
Fourth Official: Tony Harrington
Assistant Referees: Tony Peart & Paul Graham
Referee: Carl Boyeson