Barnsley surrendered a two-goal lead as they slipped to a narrow defeat against Birmingham City in a five-goal thriller on Saturday
The Reds came flying out of the blocks and found themselves 2-0 up inside the first ten minutes, before Kade Craig pulled one back midway through the first half for the visitors, who completed their fightback after the interval.
Adam Murray and Tom Harban’s side had great opportunities to win the match following the break – the best chance falling to Tommy Willard, who hit the post with the score at 2-1. However, two late goals courtesy of Jude Bellingham and Ryan Stirk saw the Blues take away all three points.
Prior to the game, the threat of the Reds’ attacking trio (Kieran Feeney, Willard and on-trial Dan McBeam) had been discussed and just three minutes in, it was clear to see why. Willard drew a foul inside the opposition’s box and picked up his fifth goal of the campaign with a composed strike from penalty spot.
Three minutes later, the advantage was doubled through Jordan Helliwell. This time, Feeney was causing trouble as he rose high to head the ball which had been fumbled by goalkeeper Josh Bradley-Hurst. Helliwell found himself in the right place at the right time and stayed calm to tuck into an open goal.
Barnsley’s defence held firm until the 23rd minute, when a corner was met well by the head of Craig, leaving Lewis Thomas helpless in the Barnsley goal. After a slow start, Karl Hooper’s players had grown into the game, taking control of possession and looked dangerous going forward – particularly from corners.
HALF-TIME: Barnsley 2-1 Birmingham
In the opening stages of the second half, the visitors had a number of opportunities to level proceedings. Tate Campbell almost equalised, but his headed effort was tipped onto the bar by Thomas, who also showed great awareness to keep Bellingham out at the back post before the ball was put into the back of the net, only to be ruled out for offside.
The introductions of Joe Ackroyd and Aiden Marsh appeared to have injected some fresh legs and ideas into the hosts, the former coming close to grabbing an assist in 71st minute only to see Willard denied by the post.
Birmingham then made the Reds pay for their missed chances. Campbell again hit the bar with a powerful header and the ball eventually fell to Bellingham who equalised. Defender Rudi Pache then saw a headed effort of his own cleared off the line with ten minutes to go, but it was Blues’ captain Stirk who tucked away what proved to be the winner with a cool left footed finish.
Barnsley will be looking to bounce back in next Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday, who were beaten 3-1 by Leeds United this weekend.
REDS XI: Thomas, Hassan-Smith, Pache, Ononye, Calligan, Aleksiev (Ackroyd), Greenfield (c), Helliwell (Dailey), Willard, Feeney, McBeam (Marsh)
Not used: Widdop, Olatubosun
BIRMINGHAM XI: Bradley-Hurst, Moore, Powell, Stirk (c), Campbell, Craig, Mayuba, Walker, George, Bellingham, Okoro (Mitchell)
Not used: Noakes, Williams