Barnsley 1 Ipswich 1: Reds pay price after failing to finish off opposition
Barnsley were made to suffer after their inability to '˜kill off' Ipswich saw the Tractor Boys grab a scarcely-deserved 93rd-minute equaliser at Oakwell.
The Reds had dominated Saturday’s game for the most part, and looked to be heading for a welcome first win in five thanks to Marley Watkins’ smartly-taken second-half strike.
However, Tom Lawrence struck for the visitors with almost the final kick of the game to rob the hosts of two much-needed points.
Reds boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “We got what we deserved. We didn’t kill Ipswich off - it’s as simple as that.
“Ipswich showed what they’re all about - being resolute and playing right until the very end. I was disappointed we didn’t put the game to bed much earlier.
Heckingbottom refused to be too down-hearted, though.
“We prepared as well as we could for the game,” added Heckingbottom.
“But in terms of the performance we delivered, I was pleased. Ipswich are a really difficult team to play against.
“They’re very organised and never give anything away. Not only are they a physical side, they have options up top, good midfielders and wing backs.
“They like to get forward and deliver good crosses into the box.
“It was a war of attrition at times, but credit to our lads, we didn’t give them too much.”
Watkins’ eighth goal of the season was slotted home in the 58th minute after he met a perfectly-weighted through-ball from the excellent Matty James.
Watkins, Adam Hammill and Andy Yiadom all missed further chances before Lawrence silenced the home faithful with almost the last kick of the game - sliding the ball home as he met a deep cross from sub Brett Pitman.
McCarthy backs Heckingbottom
Ipswich boss and Barnsley playing legend Mick McCarthy heaped praise on the Reds’ current boss Paul Heckingbottom after the Tractor Boys ‘stole’ a point.
Worsborough Bridge-raised McCarthy - who made almost 300 appearances for the Reds between 1977 and 1983 - acknowledged his side had been second best, even though they grabbed a point.
Quizzed about the impact his opposite number has made this season, McCarthy said: “I think Paul is manager of the year in this league.
“To maintain these levels after selling all those players has been remarkable. I think Barnsley had better hold on to Paul because other clubs will be queueing upfor him.”
What now for the Reds?
Barnsley have just nine games remaining in the Championship and while it now looks like their outside chance of sneaking into the play-offs has gone, they are also not going down thanks to their 13-point cushion over third-bottom Blackburn.
Make no mistake, this has been a great season for the Reds following their dream Wembley promotion from League One last May.
Many people’s favourites for a swift return to the third tier, they’ve proved many wrong with some exciting performances from a team which was been well-organised and difficult to break down.
What boss Paul Heckingbottom does with his team in these final games will be interesting to follow.
Of course he’ll be desperate to finish as high in the table as possible, but there may also be the temptation to switch the personnel around a little now that they pretty much know that there will be Championship football again at Oakwell next term.
We shall see - starting at managerless Norwich on Saturday.