BRAVE Barnsley put in a stirring performance at runaway League One leaders Bristol City, but were denied what would have been a deserved victory by Joe Bryan’s late equaliser.
Jabo Ibehre and Josh Scowen had struck to give the Reds a 2-1 lead just after the break, only for Bryan to stab home at the second attempt with six minutes to go after debutant ‘keeper Joe Wildsmith had produced a stunning save to keep out Derrick Williams’ initial effort.
Bryan’s leveller cost the Reds a place in the top six, but they are now only outside the play-off berths on goal difference as they extended their superb unbeaten run to nine games.
After Ibehre had struck to level an early penalty from Marlon Pack just before the interval, the Reds started the second period with renewed vigour and pressed the hosts back.
They stunned the home crowd at Ashton Gate by surging into the lead just eight minutes after the restart.
Again big man Ibehre was at the heart of Barnsley’s success, this time turning provider as he threaded a neat ball into Scowen, who rounded goalkeeper Frank Fielding before ramming joyfully into the gaping goal.
The Robins called upon substitute Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to try and drag themselves back into contention, with the former Arsenal youngster going close with almost his first touch as he headed inches wide.
Kieran Agard then went close as the Robins - 10 points clear of second-placed Preston at the start of play - became more and more desperate to haul themselves level.
However, it was Johnson’s men who almost made it 3-1 with 20 minutes to go when Scowen sliced an effort narrowly over the top.
Cameron Stewart also came close to registering his maiden Barnsley goal as it was the visitors who were on the front foot.
Ibehre again threatened to beat Fielding from close range, before the Robins struck late to deny the Reds a most memorable of victories.
Straight from the off the Reds came under pressure from the runaway third tier leaders Bristol.
Luke Freeman curled an effort narrowly wide after beeing smartly teed up by Korey Smith, before the hosts went in front from the penalty spot in the 13th minute.
he recalled Jean-Yves M’voto clumsily hauled down veteran striker Aaron Wilbraham in the box, leaving Marlon Pack to coolly slot past debutant Wildsmith. The Reds responded positively, however, with Jabo Ibehre forcing Frank Fielding into a smart save just minutes after the Reds had gone behind.
The gutsy Reds gave a decent account of themselves at table-topping Bristol City in the first half, and the scores were level at the interval. Marlon Pack struck early on from the penalty spot, but Lee Johnson’s men reacted positively. Josh Scowen whipped in a super cross for Jabo Ibehre to flick narrowly wide, while at the other end Luke Freeman went close for the Championship-bound hosts. Aaron Wilbraham also went close after half-an-hour, whipping in a super drive from 25 yards that only just missed the post. However, the Reds almost silenced a raucous Ashton Gate a minute before the break when loan man Ibehre struck his second goal in as many games. Martin Cranie played the ball into the giant striker, who turned neatly inside the box before drilling home from 12 yards. Lee Johnson made an emotional return to Bristol City today, one of the clubs he played for with such distinction. And ahead of the mighty task in trying to topple Sky Bet League One’s runaway leaders, he made six changes to his Barnsley starting line-up following the Oakwell draw with Preston last time out. New loan goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith - an England under-20 international - was thrust straight in for debut as Adam Davies was injured, while returning to the starting XI were Jean-Yves M’voto, George Smith, Ben Pearson and Josh Scowen, with big Jabo Ibehre being rewarded for his goal against North End with his first Reds start alongside Sam Winnall up top. As well as Davies, Mason Holgate, Declan John, John O’Sullivan, James Bailey and George Waring dropped out. Steve Cotterill’s leaders, fresh from their Johnstone Paints Trophy success against Walsall at Wembley last weekend, remained unchanged as they look to be storming towards the League One title. Bristol City (3-5-1-1): Fielding; Ayling, Flint, Williams; Little, K Smith, Pack, Freeman, Bryan; Wilbraham; Agard. Subs: Richards, Cunningham, Tavernier, Saville, Elliott, Wagstaff, Emmanuel-Thomas. Barnsley (4-4-2): Wildsmith; Cranie, Nyatanga, M’voto, Smith; Scowen, Hourihane, Pearson, Stewart; Ibehre, Winnall. Subs not used: Walton, Berry, Hemmings, Jennings, Williams, Bailey, Waring. Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire).