IS THIS WHAT I’VE MISSED?
Graham returns with rant at official
FIRST game. First gripe. It hasn’t taken Graham Alexander long to get back into the swing of things.
Sacked by Fleetwood in September, the Scot described his return to the dugout as “heaven”, but that didn’t stop him raising hell over referee Darren Drysdale’s failure to dismiss Marc Roberts.
Booked for a cynical block on Tom Hopper, the Barnsley centre-back’s head-high challenge then wiped out Paddy Madden midway through the second half for what looked a nailed on second yellow.
Yet Drysdale’s only action was a stern word in the ear and insult was almost added to injury when Roberts’ powerful header forced a sensational save from Luke Daniels.
“It was blatant,” said Alexander, whose return to the club he represented 159 times was confirmed on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t malicious. He’s tried to clear the ball. But Paddy got there first and he’s completely cleaned him out. It was at least a second yellow.
“These are big decisions, not just because we should have had an advantage but because of what the player does later in the game. It left us very frustrated.”
Once his anger had ebbed, however, Alexander was happy to admit he’d enjoyed every second of his return and even apologised to Drysdale for haranguing his fourth official.
“It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” said the 44-year-old, who guided Fleetwood to promotion from League Two in 2014.“I went to see the ref afterwards and said ‘Listen, I’ve had six months of frustration, it was always going to come out at some point’.
“I had butterflies in the stomach. The aggression, the competitiveness, trying to outwit the opposition manager – I was in heaven and the lads did me proud.”
Prior to kick-off, the question was whether Barnsley’s players have one eye on next weekend’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley. Judged by a wretched first period, it looked more like both.
The Tykes rumbled off the line with all the acceleration of a JCB and spent much of a sloppy first quarter playing suicidal passes across the back four.
Time and again the home side giftwrapped chances for their startled opponents, with only a poor touch by Hopper and an undercooked strike from Luke Williams sparing their blushes.
“We’ve been asking the boys to get on the ball and be brave in possession,” said manager Paul Heckingbottom, who was shorn of four of last week’s starters through injury.
“They were trying to do that but the quality on the ball was poor and we ended up making too many mistakes, giving it away in silly areas.
“At half-time, it was just a matter of reassuring them. We knew they had quality, we knew they’d be better on the ball. They just had to take more care.”
Heckingbottom’s words clearly hit home.The Tykes emerged with more focus and purpose, playing further up the pitch and crafting a string of chances.
The best came in quick succession. First, Josh Brownhill unleashed a 20-yard screamer that Daniels turned behind. Then, from the resulting corner, Roberts leapt to spear a powerful header that, had it been anything but arrow straight, would have hit the net.
Given the defender’s fortune – his first challenge was a stonewall yellow and his second an inadvertent assault – Scunny would have been justified in feeling aggrieved.
Beyond that however, incident was scant with defenders well on top, particularly Iron centre-back David Mirfin, who showed both strength and guile to outmanoeuvre powerful young Newcastle loanee Ivan Toney.
“We have to be happy,” added Heckingbottom, whose men began the day in the final play-off place after a run of one defeat in seven.“It could be a valuable point.”
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