Blackburn Rovers vs Barnsley. Sky Bet Championship.
Saturday 8 April 2017 18:23, UK
Two goals in a devastating opening 10 minutes pushed Blackburn closer to relegation as Barnsley secured a 2-0 win at Ewood Park.
Paul Heckingbottom's men flew out of the traps and Marc Roberts headed them into a deserved third-minute lead. Things got worse for the hosts in the 10th minute when Marley Watkins struck a spectacular second - his ninth of the season.
It knocked the wind out of Blackburn's sails before the game had properly got going and their meek response suggested a team already resigned to their fate, which was worsened because of results elsewhere.
They are four points from safety following a third straight defeat. Barnsley meanwhile, made mathematically certain of another year in the Championship following their first win on this ground since 1999.
Charlie Mulgrew and Darragh Lenihan were both ruled out so Wes Brown and Tommie Hoban came in as part of six changes for Rovers.
Barnsley refreshed their side with three changes from the draw with Cardiff. The visitors burst out from the off, with only a superb Jason Steele save thwarting George Moncur's rasping 20-yard strike.
From the resulting third-minute corner, the Tykes hit the front when Angus MacDonald flicked on to his defensive partner Roberts, who powered home a far-post header for his fourth of the campaign, despite Steele's efforts.
Blackburn's troubles worsened in the 10th minute when Barnsley pounced on a loose pass. The ball found its way to Watkins who unleashed a ferocious effort from 30 yards that beat Steele, and bounced off the underside of the bar more than once. Although it was difficult to see, the assistant referee adjudged that the ball had crossed the line.
The hosts were shell-shocked and barely managed a response of note. Hoban glanced a header wide before their first shot on target - a Lucas Joao header in the 33rd minute - was easily pouched by Adam Davies. Steele had to save smartly from Ryan Kent following a driving Moncur run before the half was up.
Blackburn's brightest spark was Connor Mahoney, and he tried his luck early in the second half, but could only curl over from the left. Kent tried a similar trick at the other end, with the same end result.
Mowbray's men came close to a response 16 minutes from time when Mahoney's corner was headed goalwards by Derrick Williams but Moncur was at the far post to head off the line.
Craig Conway saw a shot blocked and Sam Gallagher flashed a powerful drive just wide in the closing stages but Barnsley comfortably held on for a win that pushed their opponents closer to the trap door.
Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray:
"It's always been a big job and today's results obviously don't help at all. If you're looking for a positive and a light at the end of the tunnel, the next two games are against Forest and Bristol City and we have to go and try and take maximum points of course.
"It's a time to stick together, it's a time not to pick holes in each other. It's a time to find team spirit that will hopefully get us results.
"My own view is the team is working extremely hard and days like today do come along in football. It's a frustrating day for all of us because we huffed and puffed but didn't ultimately get there. It's a disappointing day. We know that. But you have to brush yourself down, deal with the disappointment and get on with the next game."
Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom:
"I'd love to have all those players (who left in January), plus the ones we've got but it's not the case so you can't dwell on it. However, in terms of the money we've spent and the budget we've got, it's an unbelievable achievement. If there was a league table for points per pound, we may be top.
"I'm delighted, but we've also set the players a little target of finishing with as many wins as losses as a minimum, plus (positive) goal difference, so we're on course and you know, we do that, we'll probably be the best Barnsley team since the one that got into the play-offs in 2000.
"I thought it was important that they realised what they're doing compared to what's gone before and they've got a real chance to put their name as one of the best Barnsley teams."