Bristol City 5 (Stead 16, 51, Fontaine 35, Nyatanga 55, Davies 67)
Reds 3 (O’Grady 57, Cywka 81, Scotland 90+1)
Barnsley showed up too late at Ashton Gate and were duly punished by bottom-of-the-table Bristol City who are fighting for their lives. The Reds did show some fight at the end but it was too little, too late as Sean O’Dricsoll’s side ran out winners in yet another high scoring affair between these two sides.
The Reds started in a bright fashion, forcing an early free-kick down the left-hand channel but failed to cause any real danger. At the other end Jon Stead pushed Cranie in the back before getting a strong header to the ball on four minutes but it sailed over the top.
On five minutes Tom Heaton could on fumble Ryan Tunnicliffe’s 25-yard drive but gathered at the second attempt, and as the game swung to the other end City feel they should have had a penalty when Foster challenged Kelly in the box – the referee Scott Mathieson didn’t flinch.
Stead forced Steele into a save at his near post on the stroke of eight minutes after springing down the right channel, the Reds’ defence was waiting for the offside flag to go up but Steele gathered with relative ease.
Thankfully Delap came to his side’s rescue when it appeared Stead had set Pearson up in the area, the Stoke loanee appeared from nowhere to pinch the ball from his toes.
Marlon Harewood took matters into his own hands on 12 minutes, charging at the Robins’ defence before threading a ball down the right for Delap who struck a vicious effort at goal but Heaton did well to parry wide for a corner.
On 16 minutes Marvin Elliott clambered all over Stephen Foster to meet Anderson’s corner, as the Reds waited for the free-kick, Jon Stead glanced in from a yard to give his side the lead.
Tom Heaton made a third super save on 21 minutes, denying Chris Dagnall yet another goal when he powered Kennedy’s free-kick at goal from eight yards, but the former Cardiff man tipped over the bar with a strong hand.
Chris Dagnall then had Heaton scrambling to his left with a rocket from 30 yards that appeared to be creeping into the top corner but drifted wide.
On 35 minutes City skipper Fontaine prodded home from a tight angle as he attacked Moloney’s deep cross. Communication appeared to be letting the Reds’ defence down.
Three minutes after the Robins doubled their lead, Stephen Foster was replaced by Chris O’Grady in a tactical change.
Marlon Harewood just couldn’t get a shot away on the turn when they piled forward on the counter, the striker was found by Perkins after his marauding run but his effort was blocked by Nyatanga.
Jon Stead grabbed his second and City’s third via a deflection on 51 minutes. Davies swung a free-kick in onto the head of Fontaine which fell to Stead 10 yards out and he struck a tame shot down the middle of goal but it deflected past Steele for 3-0.
The Reds had fallen to pieces and former Tyke Nyatanga took advantage with a close-range header after Barnsley failed to clear their lines on 55 minutes.
Ryan Tunnicliffe drove his way forward onto Harewood’s through-ball two minutes later and did salvage some pride although it was in confusing circumstances. O’Grady pounced onto Tunnicliffe’s saved strike, but it was cleared off the line and into a City defender only to appear to cross the line again – Tunnicliffe popped up again to smash home and make sure although the referee’s assistant was flagging for a goal already.
Barnsley now finally had some wind in their sails and Scotland was causing problems in the box, helping O’Grady and Cranie with efforts from inside the area.
Within a minute of coming on, Tomasz Cywka forced Heaton into a save after neat play between Scotland and O’Grady.
David Perkins almost gifted Davies a goal but the midfielder had Luke Steele to thank as he denied him one-on-one but from the resulting corner the Robins made it 5-1 when Davies was free in the area to nod home.
The deficit should have been reduced when O’Grady hacked an effort at goal from inside the six-yard box but the ball was caught underneath his feet from Perkins’ delivery on 75 minutes.
It was 5-2 on 81 minutes with Tomasz Cywka hammering a sweet strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the box as Rory Delap’s long throw eventually fell into his path.
Tomasz Cywka again charged forward before firing in from 25 yards and had Heaton diving away to his right but the drive was wide of the right-hand post on 83.
Again Tom Heaton was in action as he denied Chris O’Grady’s powerful 20-yard strike. Despite having scored five goals, City’s ‘keeper was by far the busier of the two on the day.
Barnsley never gave up and their diehard supporters were in full voice, they were rewarded on 91 minutes when Jason Scotland turned and powered in a sweet shot for 5-3 from just outside the area.
Perkins and Scotland went close again as the five minutes of stoppage time ticked down but full time whistle came too soon.
Bristol City: Heaton, Fontaine, Nyatanga, Stead, Kelly (Kilkenny 76), Pearson (Howard 82), Davies, Cunningham, Moloney, Anderson (Adomah 76), Elliott.
Subs: Gerken, Foster, Burns, Bates.
Reds: Steele, Delap, Foster (O’Grady 38), O'Brien (Scotland 56), Perkins, Dagnall, McNulty, Harewood (Cywka 63), Cranie, Tunnicliffe, Kennedy.
Subs: Lidakevicius, Hassell, Wiseman, Mellis.
Referee: S. Mathieson
Attendance: 13,008 (549)