ON-LOAN TRIO FIRE TYKES TO TOP SIX
BARNSLEY’S ‘loan rangers’ fired the resurgent Tykes into the top six for the first time but caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom warned: ‘Don’t believe the hype’.
Goals from on-loan trio Josh Brownhill of Preston, Manchester United’s Ash Fletcher and Middlesbrough whizz-kid Harry Chapman made it 12 wins in 15 league games for the in-form Tykes.
And while promotion rivals Walsall’s wobbles continued, Barnsley’s remarkable rise from relegation fodder to top-six candidates shows no signs of stopping.
Heckingbottom said: “I’m delighted for the three loan lads – Fletch has done well since he’s come back into the team, Brownhill did really well all game and so did Harry Chapman.
“Harry’s understanding of the game is very good, he’s got an old head on young shoulders. His position and his anticipation meant he was able to counter quickly and get a terrific goal.
“It was a fantastic victory, away from home against someone above us in the league.
“We know what we are chasing and we know what we’ve got to do but we’ve just said to the players it can become a distraction if you start believing the hype.
“We don’t want to get carried away with things people are saying because those same people will be saying something different when we lose a game.”
Barnsley went ahead on 17 minutes as Fletcher latched onto Chapman’s flick and accelerated past two Walsall defenders before burying a fine finish into the bottom corner.
It was harsh on Walsall who had earlier seen Anthony Forde’s 25-yard free-kick smack the post and, later, Adam Davies’ fine reaction save keep out Tom Bradshaw’s close-range shot. But they deservedly levelled from the resulting corner as Bradshaw tucked home his 16th goal of the season from a tight angle after Davies had foiled Andy Taylor.
Barnsley flew out of the blocks in the second half as Fletcher missed a sitter from six yards but made up for it as his run set up Brownhill’s cracking 25-yard strike. And when Chapman ran half the length of the pitch to squeeze a near-post finish past Neil Etheridge six minutes later, it was game over.
Milan Lalkovic could have got Walsall back in it but fired straight at Davies from 15 yards.
The Saddlers are still in the play-offs but have not won at home in 2016, leaving boss Sean O’Driscoll facing the wrath of the fans.
He said: “It was a disappointing result but the worst part about it was the atmosphere in the crowd.You can understand people’s frustrations but those are the times you need them with you.
“They are an honest bunch of players here and nobody means to misplace a pass, make a mistake, give the ball away or not score.We need to stick together.
“At half-time we had been the better team. Then by 56 minutes we were 3-1 down and I think it showed the fragility of the team – as soon as you gamble and change the shape of the team, all the things we do well become really difficult.”
OFF THE MARK: Josh Brownhill celebrates scoring his first goal for Barnsley