SIZZLING TYKES FRY UP THE SORRY BLUES
AGOAL in each half did the business for steadily improving Barnsley as they saw off sickly Birmingham at Oakwell.
The Tykes were on top almost throughout as their recent upturn in fortunes continued with a second win on the spin. They have now lost just once in their last seven.
Birmingham, meanwhile, were sent spiralling into the Championship drop zone thanks to a worrying third loss in four matches.
Delighted Tykes boss Paul Heckingbottom was fulsome in his praise of his team.
“I can’t praise the lads highly enough,” he said. “They deserve every bit of credit that will come their way after this latest result. The way we saw the game out was excellent.
“To a man, the players carried out everything I asked of them, and the decision-making was first class at times.
“This league continues to test us, but we controlled massive parts of the game and I don’t think we were troubled too often.
“Again, that’s testament to how far these lads have come. We are a young squad, but the players are learning so much with every game they play.
“I can’t have any complaints whatsoever after a performance and a result like that. We fully deserved that victory.”
Barnsley were terrific value for their single-goal half-time lead – in fact they ought to have been further ahead.
They went in front after only two minutes, with Tom Bradshaw darting in to poke home his ninth goal of the season as he met a low cross from Harvey Barnes.
Bradshaw headed Zeki Fryers’ free-kick delivery inches over the top minutes later.
Tykes old boy David Cotterill had the Blues’ best chance of the first half as he tested keeper Adam Davies from distance.
Shortly before the break the Blues’ experienced keeper Tomasz Kuszczak saved brilliantly from Lloyd Isgrove as the hosts pushed for a second.
The visitors rallied briefly after the restart and Spanish star Jota was denied by a brave block from Liam Lindsay, but a second Tykes goal always looked likely, and it duly arrived after 68 minutes.
After Bradshaw was fouled on the edge of the box, former Manchester United and Tottenham youngster Zeki Fryers curled home his first Barnsley goal direct from the free-kick.
Jota again went close to a Blues reply, only to be thwarted this time by a brilliant Davies save, while at the other end George Moncur curled a strike just over the top as the Tykes pressed home their authority.
Recently-appointed Blues boss Steve Cotterill is still looking for answers. “There’s a lot of work still to do here, clearly,” he said.
“Some of the players seem to have been finding things difficult recently. In fact, some have found it tough all season.
“I know the quality is there in the squad. We’ve got lots of topclass players who aren’t quite reaching the standards required at the moment.
“Myself and the players will continue to strive to get things right. Everyone is bitterly disappointed right now.
“This is a big club with big expectations, we all know that. It’s a situation we need to collectively respond to, and we will do.
“I understand the fans’ frustrations, but they can all rest assured that we will continue to put our best efforts in every time we take to the field.”
BRAD ALL OVER: Tom Bradshaw, left, celebrates after putting Barnsley ahead after just two minutes STAR MAN ZEKI FRYERS Barnsley