Blues were put to the sword by a ruthless Barnsley side at St. Andrew’s this evening as the visitors scored five times in the space of 23 second-half minutes.
Boyhood Blues fan Craig Davies inflicted most of the damage with the former Wolves forward bagging four goals to follow up Stephen Foster’s opener for the Yorkshire outfit. It was a bad night at the office for Lee Clark’s side, who created little as an attacking force and struggled to contain Barnsley’s lively strikers.
Keith Fahey made his first start of the season partnering Jonathan Spector in central midfield with Hayden Mullins switching to right-back to cover for the injured Paul Caddis.
The visitors were first to threaten as the Blues defence was carved open down the right. Jacob Mellis broke clear inside the area and his cross was met by Chris Dagnall but Jack Butland was out bravely to smother the striker’s effort.
Both teams put together some good passing moves during the opening quarter of the game but the final ball and creative spark was sadly lacking. Mellis tried his luck from distance but his effort cleared Butland’s crossbar by a good few yards.
Blues were forced into a change on 25 minutes with David Murphy leaving the field due to injury to be replaced by the fit-again Darren Ambrose – Spector slotting back to the left of the backline.
Butland was called into action again on 34 minutes to punch away Dagnall’s swerving 20-yard shot. The same Barnsley striker was presented with an even better chance moments later but Blues’ young keeper was again equal to it, diving low to keep out the drive from the edge of the area.
It was an uninspiring opening period from a Blues perspective but the home fans finally had something to get them on their feet with half-time looking as Chris Burke tried to spark his side into life. The Scot turned smartly on the right flank and whipped in a cross that caused a certain amount of consternation in the Barnsley defensive ranks. The attack ended with Wade Elliott producing Blues’ first shot of the game but the winger’s attempted chip was easily claimed by Ben Alnwick.
Blues could have no real complaints when Barnsley grabbed the game’s first goal five minutes after the interval. A corner found its way through to Stephen Foster who was lurking at far post and the centre-half displayed a poacher’s instinct to get in front of his marker and stroke the ball home from close range.
It went from bad to worse just three minutes later as Keith Hill’s side doubled their advantage. Ambrose was dispossessed by Mellis and the former Chelsea man charged goalwards before unselfishly squaring to the unmarked Davies, who cleverly poked the ball past the onrushing Butland with the outside of his foot. Caldwell did his best to prevent the shot from crossing the line with a sliding intervention but the whole of the ball was clearly over.
Buoyed by his earlier goal, Davies was at it again on the hour. The striker showed terrific close control to manufacture a shooting chance on the left of the area before curling a sublime shot beyond Butland.
It continued to be one-way traffic as Butland saved well from Mellis but the rampant Tykes were not to be denied a fourth with a match-ball clinching third for Davies. The striker was again allowed the freedom of the Blues penalty area and he finished clinically with a low shot. Painful memories of the 1999/2000 play-off defeat to the same opponents came flooding back for the hardy St. Andrew’s faithful.
But just eight minutes later and Barnsley inflicted another dose of pain and it was that man Davies again. A quick throw-in released Dagnall on the right side of the area and his cross was headed in at the far post by his strike-partner.
The five-goal blitz understandably knocked the stuffing out of Blues for whom it was most definitely a day to forget. Clark’s charges at least have a week to put right the wrongs ahead of next weekend’s visit to Brighton.
Blues: Jack Butland; Hayden Mullins (Nathan Redmond 55), Steven Caldwell, Pablo Ibanez, David Murphy (Darren Ambrose 25); Chris Burke, Jonathan Spector, Keith Fahey, Wade Elliott; Leroy Lita (Nikola Zigic 61), Marlon King.
Subs (not used): Colin Doyle, Curtis Davies, Peter Lovenkrands, Ravel Morrison.
Barnsley: Ben Alnwick; Tom Kennedy, Stephen Foster, Scott Wiseman, Scott Golbourne; Stephen Dawson, Martin Crainie, Jacob Mellis, Tomasz Cywka; Chris Dagnall, Craig Davies (Marlon Harewood 85).
Subs (not used): Luke Steele, Matt Done, David Perkins, Kelvin Etuhu, Reuben Noble-Lazarus, Danny Rose.
Goal: Foster (50), Davies (53, 60, 65, 73)
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 13,893 (295 Barnsley fans)