TYKES SHOW OFF PARTY SET-PIECE!
BOTH teams were off on their Christmas parties after this one – but it was Barnsley set to paint the town red while the Blues drowned their sorrows.
Three set-pieces, two Sam Winnall goals and one hugely impressive victory put the Tykes in festive mood as they ended a miserable run of one win in 11 to move back into the top half of the table.
Skipper Conor Hourihane’s delivery set up all three headed goals – Marc Roberts’ first-half opener and Winnall’s late double – and David Davis was sent off for the Blues for a second bookable offence in between.
Tykes boss Paul Heckingbottom was only too happy to let his men off the leash, beaming: “I hope they enjoy the party, it’s well deserved.
“We encourage it because it’s all part of being a team. So long as it’s organised properly!
“I wanted them to put it to the back of their mind because if you’re not careful you can lose focus. They have been professional and done it.
“We spoke all week about putting in a perfect away-day performance and everything that entails – managing and controlling the game both when we had the ball and when we didn’t. And we did that from the first minute until the last.
“We’ve been hammering it home to the players about set-plays because it’s a big part of our game and we haven’t been enough of a threat from them. We’ve worked hard and it’s paid off.”
Birmingham remain fourth despite the defeat, but that did not stop boss Gary Rowett entering Scrooge mode as his players went off to party.
He said: “Do the lads deserve a drink together as a team over the course of the season? Yes. Do I want them to go now? Probably not.
“There were too many players nowhere near a good enough performance level.
“I’m incredibly disappointed that we’ve lost the game to three setpieces because that’s pretty unlike us.
“We had opportunities – Clayton Donaldson had a brilliant chance early on and David Davis hit the post – but we didn’t cause them enough problems.”
Barnsley bossed the opening exchanges but Blues should have led with their first real chance on 12 minutes.
David Cotterill’s low cross into the six-yard box gave Clayton Donaldson a tap-in but a combination of his complacent finish and Tykes keeper Adam Davies’ lightning reactions kept it 0-0.
City keeper Tomasz Kuszczak produced an equally good stop at the other end four minutes later, his fingertips foiling a stinging 18-yard Ryan Kent drive destined for the bottom corner.
Barnsley’s superiority was rewarded with the opening goal seven minutes before the break as Roberts glanced home Hourihane’s inviting free-kick.
Blues still almost went into the break level as Davis burst into the Barnsley box and crashed a low shot against the post.
But Barnsley were the better side, only another fine save from Kuszczak ten minutes into the second half preventing Tom Bradshaw from doubling the lead.
And the game was up 20 minutes from time when Davis saw a second yellow for a high tackle on James Bree.
Barnsley went for the jugular and Winnall wrapped up the points with two cracking headers in the final six minutes from Hourihane deliveries.
ON THE MARC: Marc Roberts celebrates Barnsley’s opener