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Barnsley 0 - 1 Saints
JAN Poortvliet had called on Saints to do whatever it took to get a win at Barnsley, even if it meant winning ugly. His players took him at his word.
The victory was never pretty, it wasn’t very convincing, but it WAS three precious points.
Normally coming away from a Saints game this season the story has been: played well, didn’t take their chances, deserved to get something from the game – and lost.
How refreshing, then, that on this occasion it was: played poorly, had one chance, took it, didn’t deserve to win – but did.
It was a performance and a match that was pretty much the direct opposite of everything Saints have been all season.
Free flowing football was replaced by gritty battling.
Saints came with a game plan to prevent Barnsley from scoring for as long as possible and then try and grab a goal themselves – just as, so frustratingly, teams so often do against them.
And it worked as they did exactly that. They rode their luck, and against a better side the game would have been lost before Saints got their goal.
But luckily they weren’t playing a very good side.
The game itself was one to forget. It was the lowest quality match Saints have been involved in this season. Frankly, it was absolute rubbish to watch.
For Saints, though, only one thing mattered and that was the result They not only got it but proved that they have at last come up with a ‘plan b’ for getting victories.
There is little doubt the plugging of two massive holes helped.
Jan-Paul Saeijs is a tall lad and won everything in the air at centre half.
Marek Saganowski up front didn’t see much of the ball, but you sensed Barnsley were always wary of him and that also made a difference.
Poortvliet reckoned Saints needed two wins from three games starting with Barnsley and followed by Doncaster and Norwich.
Seven points was most neutrals’ belief.
Well, this was the perfect start.
It has given them the ideal platform from which to build and, in a three game spell that is without doubt make or break for their season, the opportunity is there to really push on to safety.
It would have been a very different story had Barnsley taken their chances.
The first of those fell to the feet of Jamie Cureton just over a minute into the game.
Maceo Rigters dragged his shot from distance and it found its way through to Cureton, who had time to control and pick his spot. But under no real pressure from ten yards out, he fired over the bar.
Barnsley were playing very narrowly and that seemed to suit Saints, but it was still the home team who were creating chances with Jon Macken and Jamal Campbell-Ryce volleying over.
Barnsley contrived to miss an even better chance than Cureton’s on 30 minutes.
It was as a result of Cureton’s poor touch which saw the ball burst through to Rigters in the area. He had even more time and space to slip the ball past the advancing Kelvin Davis but missed the target altogether when it seemed easier to score.
Davis saved Saints in first half stoppage time when Cureton got through, but he dived at his feet.
The nearest Saints had come was Bradley Wright-Phillips’ drilled low shot that Heinz Muller saved with his legs.
As the second half wore on and Barnsley spurned two more good chances you started to believe it might just be Saints’ day.
Firstly Stephen Foster’s header was turned over by Davis before Dennis Souza saw his hit the post.
Davis was in action again on 74 minutes to produce a brilliant stop, somehow getting back across his goal to save from Cureton at the far post.
During this time Saints had created only one decent opening, Wright-Phillips bursting down the left and picking out Lee Holmes who dragged his shot wide.
On 76 minutes, though, Saints got their one decent chance of the game and, unlike Barnsley, they weren’t about to waste it.
A corner was headed out to the right where Holmes picked it up and crossed beautifully onto the head of David McGoldrick and from six yards out he made no mistake.
Barnsley had late penalty appeals turned down when Kayode Odejayi went down in the box, but for Saints it was job done.
Sometimes in football all that matters is the result, and this was one of those occasions.