Barnsley 4 Swindon Town 1: Hourihane our inspiration says Johnson

Barnsley's star man Conor Hourihane celebrates his goal against Swindon. l'Picture Dean Atkins
Barnsley's star man Conor Hourihane celebrates his goal against Swindon. l'Picture Dean Atkins

Barnsley boss Lee Johnson hailed star man Conor Hourihane after the all-action midfielder helped his side sink Swindon with ruthless efficiency.

Last season’s top scorer Hourihane hasn’t always sparkled so far this term, but he was on fire at Oakwell on Saturday as the Robins were crushed.

It was a perfect response to back-to-back league defeats from the Reds, with Hourihane contributing significantly with a well-deserved second goal of the season, and two assists.

“I thought Conor was a massive catalyst for what we did here,” beamed Johnson.

“Mentally he was superb, he organised, and he was a captain out there from start to finish.

“He didn’t have the armband on, but he recognised what needed to be done all the time.

“We were starting to nick things off them before half-time and we then became much more effective.”

It was tough going at times in the first half for Barnsley, but they came good against quality opposition with four well-taken goals.

Johnson added: “I was really chuffed for the players because they’d put a lot of work in during the week. It had been quite intense.

“I had been demanding of them, but they came to the fore in this game.

“We didn’t start great and we looked nervous on the ball. We gave away a really poor goal communication-wise, and you’re thinking ‘oh God’.

“But in the end, all that we worked on came good.

“Don’t forget you’ve got to respect Swindon and the way they play and control those midfield zones. However, we took our opportunities here and were good value.”

Having gone into Saturday’s game on the back of worrying reverses at Rochdale and at home to Shrewsbury, Johnson made four changes to his starting line-up, one which contained no recognised strikers.

Sam Winnall had been dropped to the bench along with ‘keeper Adam Davies and Marc Roberts, while Dan Crowley was out altogether due to a thigh problem.

In came Nick Townsend between the sticks, George Smith, Kadeem Harris, and ex-Fulham wide-man Ryan Williams for his first appearance of the season following injury.

Williams would last less than half-an-hour before running out of steam, and by that time there had already been a goal for each side.

The Reds fell behind in the 20th minute thanks to a rather comical own-goal.

As the recalled Townsend charged off his line to meet Raphael Rossi-Branco’s hopeful punt forward, Lewin Nyatanga’s headed backpass sneaked past the ‘keeper and trickled alarmingly into the gaping goal.

It was a stunning blow for the Reds, but they showed great character in bouncing back to level within two minutes.

Josh Scowen was alert in finding Marley Watkins, who sprung the offside trap before slipping a well-taken shot past Lawrence Vigouroux as he registered his third goal in five appearances.

Winnall came close to a second Reds goal, before the hosts did make their dominance count just a minute before the interval.

Reece Wabara fired the Reds into the lead with an absolute cracker.

Hourihane played the ball neatly to the right-back, who unleashed a superb strike from 25 yards which beat Vigouroux all ends up.

That handed the hosts a well-timed boost at the perfect time, and they continued with their impressive high tempo after the restart.

It was 3-1 shortly before the hour mark.

This time Nyatanga made delightful amends for his earlier misdemeanour as he rose majestically to head home Hourihane’s flighted cross.

The Reds’ tails were well and truly up, and they wrapped up a much-needed victory with 15 minutes still to play when Hourihane grabbed the goal his all-round contribution had richly deserved.

The former Plymouth man was perfectly placed to slot home past Vigouroux after Scowen’s initial strike bounced back off the crossbar.

It was almost a nap-hand for Barnsley in the dying minutes, but Winnall was denied by a breath-taking finger-tip save from the overworked Vigouroux.

BARNSLEY (4-3-3): Townsend 6; Wabara 8 (Bree 85, 5), Mawson 7, Nyatanga 7, Smith 6; Scowen 7, Pearson 8, Hourihane 9; Harris 7 (Jackson 78, 5), Watkins 8, Williams 5 (Winnall 27, 7). Subs not used: Davies, Roberts, Wilkinson, Digby.

BOOKED: Pearson (13), Scowen (60).

SWINDON (4-3-3): Vigouroux 5; Barry 7, Turnbull 5, Raphael 6, Williams 7; Rodgers 8, Kasim 5 (Thompson 51, 5), Traore 5; Ajose 5, Thomas 7, Robert 5 (Ojamaa 46, 5). Subs not used: Belford, Smith, Stewart, Brophy, Balmy.

BOOKED: Thompson (62).

REF: Darren Bond (Lancashire).