Barnsley 1-3 Fulham Six Things: fortuitous Whites

Ryan Sessegnon – bbc.co.uk

Rarely can receiving a shove in the back of one’s head be considered the perfect solution to a problem, but that was the case for Stefan Johansen and Fulham on Saturday afternoon. They were in grave danger of a first league defeat since mid-December after they fell behind at Oakwell through Liam Lindsey’s goal, but after Dimitri Cavare’s ill-judged attack on Stefan Johansen, the tide turned in a 3-1 win. Here’s six things from the game.

Barnsley’s bright first half

The match was preceded by an emotional tribute to former Barnsley owner Patrick Cryne, who had sadly passed away that week. Fitting, the sense of togetherness he had fostered did not desert the fans, nor the players, who produced a high-octane first half display. As soon as Fulham got beyond the half-way line, they were met by a cavalry of red shirts. Every opening Barnsley created, including an early long-ranger from Stevie Mallan that stung the palms of Marcus Bettinelli, came within a few seconds of the turnover of possession.

Static Whites

The away side played into Barnsley’s hands by giving the ball away so cheaply, not helped by the lack of movement from front man Rui Fonte and others behind him. They fell behind when Tomas Kalas clumsily diverted Mallan’s deep corner to the far post and though Bettinelli kept out his teammate, Matty Pearson’s obstruction stopped him keeping out Lindsay’s follow-up.

The game-changers

The Tykes had some luck that their goal was not ruled out and the game was going well: until, that was, the first minute of injury time. Cavare decided to shove Johansen in the back of the head when the ball was out of play and his stupidity meant Barnsley would be defending their slender lead with 10 men. That advantage lasted just three minutes into the second period, when Ryan Fredericks ended a rampaging run through a crowd of players by hitting the post, leaving namesake Sessegnon to gobble up the rebound.

Barnsley’s brave resistance

The youngster’s leveller hinted at instant dominance from Fulham, but instead Barnsley fought valiantly on. Midfielder Gary Gardner covered every blade of grass to protect centre-backs Lindsay and Matty Pearson, who cleared every ball that came their way in a dogged defensive display. For a half-hour spell, Fulham’s best effort was a speculative effort from Neeskens Kebano, who curled over after a clever back-heel from fellow substitute Matt Targett.

Feed Federicks, Fulham!

Fulham used Targett and Kebano on the left side the most often in that second half, yet it was play down the right through Ryan Fredericks that proved the most productive. The athletic full-back targeted advanced areas as soon as he received the ball and having been instrumental in creating the first goal, he was also key to the second. Fredericks crossed to the back-post and after goalkeeper Adam Davies failed to hold onto Kebano’s header, the resultant aerial goal-line melee saw Kevin McDonald scramble home.

Tough times for the Tykes

Sessegnon added a 95th-minute third to compound the misery for Barnsley. The nine-men in their side that didn’t think this to be WWE nor a game of hot potato deserved at least a point for their brave efforts in adversity. Instead, defeat leaves them vulnerable, with four relegation rivals in action on Tuesday. As the club faces a deeply emotional time off the field, they have plenty to protect on it.

Fulham complete the turnaround

After the Cottagers began November with a 2-0 defeat at Wolves to drop 17th, few would have thought they would end January as high as sixth, but that is a sign of how quickly things can change in football. They have scored 31 goals in that timeframe – nine more than any other side – and Sessegnon continues to relish a more advanced role. Fulham deserve credit for their form overall, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that their performance at Oakwell has left room for improvement.