IS THIS WHAT I’VE MISSED?

Gra­ham re­turns with rant at of­fi­cial

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris Dunlavy

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.”

NO WAY THROUGH: Scun­thorpe’s Luke Daniels makes a cru­cial save

STAR MAN DAVID MIRFIN Scunth

orpe

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