Blues defeated at St. Andrew's.BCFC
The opening game of a busy December appeared to be heading towards three points when Scott Hogan gave Blues a deserved lead after the break.
Instead, it was a penalty and deflected strike which turned the game in Barnsley’s favour, with Blues defeated for the first time in four matches.
The result was also the first time Blues had been beaten since they returned to Sky Bet Championship action after the international break.
Aitor Karanka’s team included three changes to the side that had drawn 0-0 at home to Millwall four days previous. In came Jake Clarke-Salter, Riley McGree and Scott Hogan, with George Friend, Ivan Sunjic and Lukas Jutkiewicz making way.
And having seen Barnsley’s Cauley Woodrow thrash a half-volley wide inside five minutes, Blues set about creating their own offensive opportunities with their four-man attacking unit. However, they still had to be alert at the back as Conor Chaplin fired wide for the visitors under the lights.
Then, moments after the Tykes had a penalty claim dismissed, Blues burst forward through McGree who fired a low centre just out of Jonathan Leko’s reach.
Clearly lifted by this attacking foray, Blues won a free-kick through their number 14s persistence, and Ivan Sanchez curled the resulting set piece just over the bar as the clock neared 30 minutes played.
That had appeared to be the last significant goal-mouth action of the half, but in the second minute of added time Maxime Colin’s inswinging cross narrowly evaded the clever runs of McGree and Hogan.
Half-time: Blues 0 Barnsley 0
Clearly intent on converting impetus and invention into tangible reward, Blues started the second period firmly planted in the visitor’s half and were just unable to capitalise on two early free-kicks.
Before, through open play, Kristian Pedersen’s probing cross-field dart found the lively Sanchez. And when he cut inside from the right, he was unfortunate to see his well-hit strike deflected off target as Blues looked to break the deadlock.
It was soon after down that same side that Karanka’s men did the work to take a 56th-minute lead. After Leko had forced the away side into a mistake in the corner, Colin was able to drift goalwards and look up for Scott Hogan. The man who had been recalled to the starting XI conjured a cute finish to find the corner for his second goal of the season.
Unfortunately, the lead would last just over a quarter of an hour, as Barnsley levelled from the penalty spot. On first viewing there appeared little contact from Pedersen on Callum Brittain, but referee Tony Harrington pointed to the spot from which Woodrow equalised.
This prompted a reaction from the sidelines and Blues made a trio of changes, introducing Friend, Sunjic and Jeremie Bela. But little could be done about the goal which saw the club from South Yorkshire claim victory, with Neil Etheridge left wrong footed by Callum Styles’ deflected effort just six minutes from time.
Blues (3-5-2): Neil Etheridge, Maxime Colin, Marc Roberts, Harlee Dean (captain), Jake Clarke-Salter (George Friend 80), Kristian Pedersen (Jeremie Bela 80), Mikel San José, Jonathan Leko (Jon Toral 85), Ivan Sanchez, Riley McGree (Ivan Sunjic 80), Scott Hogan (Lukas Jutkiewicz 85’).
Substitutes not used: Andrés Prieto, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Gary Gardner.
Barnsley (3-4-2-1): Jack Walton, Callum Brittain, Michael Sollbauer, Michal Helik, Mads Andersen, Callum Styles, Herbie Kane (Matthew James 77), Alex Mowatt (captain) (Ronal Palmer 77), Conor Chaplin (Luke Thomas 77), Cauley Woodrow (Aapo Halme (86), Victor Adeboyejo (Dominik Frieser 77).
Substitutes not used: Brad Collins, Patrick Schmidt, Clarke Oduor, George Miller.
Booking: Andersen (58), McGree (68)
Referee: Tony Harrington