First League goal for loan hero Pearson clinches points for Barnsley

Jean Yves M'Voto gets to grips with Barnsley transfer target Tom Pope. Photo: Keith Turner
Jean Yves M'Voto gets to grips with Barnsley transfer target Tom Pope. Photo: Keith Turner

Relieved Barnsley boss Danny Wilson admitted his side rode their luck at times as they clung for an impressive win against play-off chasing Port Vale.

But the Reds also defended stoutly as they notched only their second victory since Christmas.

And, on Saturday’s evidence, few more battling wins like this could force themselves into the play-off picture during the closing few months of the season.

After eventually seeing off a determined Vale side, Wilson said: “It was a slow- burner to start with and there was a bit of frustration around.

“We were then a bit fortunate to get the first goal in the manner we did, and you could say we had a bit of luck with the second goal as the ball flicked off their defender before going in.

“It wasn’t so much about the performance in this game, though. It was about getting the three points and that’s what we did.

“It was a bit of a backs-to-the-wall effort towards the end as they pushed us back, but we defended for our lives and really hung in there.

“We’ve not really had our fair share of luck at times this season, but in this game we might have enjoyed some.

“I’d say we were due some luck, and I’ll take it all day long.”

Following the comprehensive defeat at MK Dons seven days earlier, Wilson made four changes to his starting line-up, and he had plenty of experience to call upon.

Skipper Martin Cranie and Peter Ramage were back to solidify the defence, while Dale Jennings returned to add a bit of trickery and Kane Hemmings got the nod to partner George Waring up front.

Youngsters George Smith and Alex Kiwomya were dropped to the bench, while Luke Berry and George Williams had been demoted from the 18 altogether.

Vale boss Rob Page made three alterations to his starting XI following a home Staffordshire derby defeat against Crewe.

Reds target Tom Pope was in from the start for the first time since damaging knee ligaments back in October.

As Wilson admitted, it was slow-going for the watching supporters during a blustery first half at Oakwell.

Conor Hourihane went close when when saw a shot blocked following a neat one-two with Hemmings, while a looping header from Ramage was tipped acrobatically over the crossbar by Vale ‘keeeper Chris Neal.

Neal was then agile as he dived down low to beat away a thunderous 25-yard drive from Jennings.

The Vale ‘keeper actually put Barnsley into the lead in first-half stoppage time.

Milan Lalkovic burst menacingly down the left flank before driving in a low cross which Neal could only parry into his own net.

It was maybe just about deserved for the hosts, but their decisive second goal, just three minutes after the break, was a cracker from BenPearson.

The young Manchester United loanee was superb as he picked up a loose ball on the edge of his own penalty box before heading off on a lung-busting run towards the very heart of the Valiants’ defence.

Pearson - compared by many United fans to Old Trafford legend Paul Scholes - eventually fired in a shot that beat the dejected Neal after the ball had brushed off the heel of back-pedalling centre-back Frederic Veseli.

Pearson celebrated his first Football League goal fiercely, and no wonder.

It could have been 3-0 minutes later as Cranie forced another smart save out of Neal, while Jennings skipped easily past Chris Lines before driving a low drive inches wide.

Vale grabbed themselves a lifeline in the 66th minute.

Former Red Carl Dickinson floated over a peach of a cross for Colin Daniel to volley home, and it was ‘game-on’ again.

However, the Reds’ defence produced a heroic display in the closing stages to keep Page’s men at arm’s length.

Pope’s header was hacked off the line by Pearson, while sub Chris Birchall also went close.

However it was Sam Winnall who almost had the final word.

Back from injury after being out of action since November, the Reds’ substitute lashed in an accurate shot which was only beaten away at the second attempt by the relieved Neal.

Pope was injured late on following a clash with Pearson, and he was due to undergo an x-ray to determine the extent of a facial injury.

It was feared the Vale hit-man had fractured his jaw, but Reds boss Wilson didn’t appear put off by the injury, whatever the eventual diagnosis.

Asked whether the Reds will still be actively pursuing Pope before tonight’s transfer deadline, Wilson said: “It depends how bad the injury is, but it doesn’t really affect anything as far as I’m concerned.

“It’s not good news for the boy we know that, but it’s still something we’ll be looking at.

“Whether we get him we don’t know, but he’s definitely a different player to what we’ve already got, and that’s why we’ve identified him.

“He knows the situation and we know the situation, but we’ve got until Monday night to try and work something out now.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It’s down to the two clubs now.

“We’ve identified who we’d like to bring in, so the two clubs have to get their heads together now.”

Barnsley (4-4-2): Turnbull 7; Cranie 6, M’voto 7, Ramage 8, Nyatanga 6;

Lalkovic 8 (Scowen 70, 5), Pearson 8, Hourihane 7, Jennings 5 (Digby

90, 6); Waring 6, Hemmings 7 (Winnall 83, 6). Subs: Davies, Smith,

Lita, Kiwomya.

Booked: M’voto (67), Waring (88).

Port Vale (4-4-2): Neal 5; Yates 6, Robertson 7, Veseli 6, Dickinson 7;

Lines 8, O’Connor 5, Daniel 7, Marshall 7; Pope 5, Williamson 5

(Birchall 33, 6). Subs: Johnson, McGivern, Duffy, Brown, Moore, Lloyd.

Booked: O’Connor (45).

Referee watch: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).