Reds 1 (Demetriou o.g. 45)
Barnsley head in at half time 1-0 ahead against Walsall in the first leg of their League One Play-off semi-final at Oakwell, courtesy of Adam Hammill’s deflected effort.
After Sam Winnall had latched onto Ashley Fletcher’s intelligent header on, he provided a perfect pull back for the winger to slide home from the middle of the area.
Lloyd Isgrove brought the best out of Neil Etheridge with a drilled effort a quarter of an hour in and had the ball in the goal five minutes later, only for it to be ruled offside.
Alfie Mawson twice tested the stopper with powerful headers while Anthony Forde’s free kick was expertly turned away by Barnsley stopper Adam Davies as the Reds asserted their authority against their Black Country rivals.
The first chance of note came five minutes in as Lloyd Isgrove’s teasing cross was just too high for Sam Winnall to connect with as the cross drifted away.
Isgrove, in search of his first Reds goal of the season, stung the fingertips of Neil Etheridge 16 minutes in with a rasping 25-yard drive and Alfie Mawson headed at the stopper from Hammill’s ball in.
Walsall countered immediately with Welsh forward Tom Bradshaw firing straight at Davies from just inside the area before Mawson headed a Marc Roberts long throw wide.
After 21 minutes, Hammill’s inch-perfect ball was volleyed home by Isgrove, but the offside flag meant his celebrations were premature, although replays suggested the Welsh international was on.
Anthony Frode’s delightful free kick just before the half hour was sublimely turned away by Adam Davies before a deflected Josh Scowen effort brought Etheridge back into the game.
Jason Demetriou’s low effort proved a comfortable take for Davies just past the half hour and another Mawson header from Roberts’ long throw tested Etheridge further.
Bradshaw slipped the ball just wide of the mark five minutes before the break after former Red Milan Lalkovic had escaped from marker Scowen.
The Reds got their just rewards on the stroke of half time as Winnall’s tireless running saw him create enough space for a pullback. It was missed by all in white and fell perfectly for Hammill to sweep home via a Demetriou deflection, sending the Reds in 1-0 up at the break.