Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock has highlighted the impact of the final 20 minutes on Tuesday night as Jose Morais’ Reds were edged out despite an encouraging display in South Wales.
The Bluebirds – who went into the game with the best defensive record in the Sky Bet Championship – rode the wave of late Barnsley pressure in the second half to see out a 2-1 win, after Oli McBurnie’s fifth Reds goal on the hour mark halved a deficit inflicted by Cardiff’s Callum Paterson and Marko Grujic.
“I told [assistant manager] Kevin Blackwell with 20 minutes to go, that how the rest of this game turns out could define our season,” Warnock revealed.
“I can’t fault my lads. We were all at sea at times and Barnsley were physical and had got their heads up, but then we got things sorted – the captain Sol Bamba dictated where we were, and the substitutes, Greg Halford and Loic Damour, did well defensively when they came on.
“In the circumstances, it’s a great win.”
The Reds pushed for large parts of the second half to grab an equaliser, with the hosts’ defence given a tough test. Cardiff did have late opportunities on the break to seal the game which they passed up, before eventually securing their fifth straight league victory.
“They could have made it easier for me at my age by putting away a third at the end, we had two chances that my missus could have scored. They’re a great bunch of lads, though. We move on from a good three points.”
The 1970s Barnsley winger maintained that the play-offs are still the target for Cardiff as they were at the beginning of the season, but the team will be entirely focused on winning every game to see where it takes them. Warnock then touched on his trademark lifted fist celebration with Cardiff’s supporters.
“My raised fist after a win is for the fans. I think they pay money for that,” he jokingly remarked. "If we do that 11 more times, that’ll do me… Then I can have arthritis!” the 69-year-old added.
Warnock, recently celebrating a new two-year-deal in the Welsh capital, next faces another home clash – this time against newly-appointed Garry Monk at Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon (3pm), whilst the Reds are on their travels again to Middlesbrough.