Barnsley let it slip again

 

Straightforwardness does not seem to be a concept with which the footballers of Barnsley are familiar. Games are either dramatic emotional defeats or dramatic, emotional victories, who knows what their manager, Danny Wilson, would give for a dull 0-0 draw? That is the scoreline yet to figure in Barnsley's season and currently, the 90 Premiership minutes in which they participate average 3.56 goals. Unfortunately for them, however, their share of these goals in 11 of their 16 games has been less than 50 per cent. Pointlessness has thus become a major part of the Barnsley equation and Saturday provided another case of it.

Despite being two goals ahead after only 28 minutes, when the final whistle blew, Barnsley had just 40 per cent of the goals scored.

"Sadly the game doesn't last for half an hour," said Wilson afterwards, a man acutely aware that the fractions are not adding up. "If you go 2-0 up, then you have got to kill the game off."

Statistically at least, it could be said that Barnsley came within 11 minutes of doing that, but such an argument ignores the evidence of our own eyes, Barnsley were tired and creaking from the 55th minute when Andy Liddell's header was butted off the line by David Robertson.

Had that gone in, and made the score 3-1, it is easy to say that Leeds would not have recovered. And yet for the third time in as many games they did so, or to be exact, were allowed to, a run that tells us more about the shallow pool of quality Premiership defenders than about the creative and finishing ability of Leeds United's attacking personnel.

For, as against Derby County and West Ham, at Oakwell George Graham's mix and match collective were offered a route to victory by soft-centred defending. Isolating individuals for criticism is not a task managers usually carry out in public, and Wilson did not do it here. Yet his head must have been bursting with annoyance at the niceness of his Dutch centre half, Arjan de Zeeuw.

A meek challenge from him on Alf Inge Haaland enabled the Norwegian to pull one back 10 minutes before half time, while a similarly unconvincing De Zeeuw tackle on Leeds substitute Derek Lilley resulted in Rod Wallace bringing the scores level. Three minutes later, Lilley clipped in, what was by then, the inevitable winner.

Consequently, Graham left the ground smiling, though not smugly, admitting his considerable alarm about the opening half hour when his "timid" defence had been shredded, not by clever, intricate passing, but by Neil Redfearn's accurate, but basic long balls.

Yet Leeds were bamboozled, Liddell drove in the first after eight minutes and Ashley Ward snatched a second.

Barnsley: Leese, Eaden, De Zeeuw, Redfearn, Liddell (Hristov 85), Bullock (Appleby 79), Bosancic (Moses 72), Tinkler, Barnard, Ward, Markstedt. Subs Not Used: Watson, Hendrie. Booked: Bosancic, Ward, Moses. Goals: Liddell 8, Ward 28.

Leeds United: Martyn, Kelly, Robertson, Haaland (Molenaar 69), Radebe, Wetherall, Wallace, Hasselbaink, Ribeiro, Bowyer (Lilley 77), Halle (Maybury 45). Subs Not Used: Beeney, Laurent. Booked: Halle, Radebe, Haaland, Maybury, Wallace, Robertson. Goals: Haaland 35, Wallace 79, Lilley 82.

Referee: M D Reed (Birmingham).

The IFA is under pressure to take strong action after the abandonment of a high profile match at Coleraine on Saturday. World cup referee Alan Snoddy prematurely halted the Irish League premier division game between Coleraine and Linfield after a hail of missiles were thrown on the pitch.