The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Si­mon Smed­ley

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.”

PIC­TURE: Ian Lyall/Pro Sports Im­ages

BRAD ALL OVER: Tom Brad­shaw, left, cel­e­brates af­ter putting Barns­ley ahead af­ter just two min­utes STAR MAN ZEKI FRY­ERS Barns­ley

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